Fathers of the Church
Letter CLI. to Various Monasteries
by Theodoret in c. 431 | translated by Blomfield Jackson
Letter or address of Theodoret to the monks of the Euphratensian, the Osrhoene, Syria, Phoenicia, and Cilicia
When I contemplate the condition of the Church at the present crisis of affairs,—the tempest which has recently beset the holy ship, the furious blasts, the beating of the waves, the deep darkness of the night, and, besides all this, the strife of the mariners, the struggle going on between oarsmen the drunkenness of the pilots, and, lastly, the untimely action of the bad,—I bethink me of the laments of Jeremiah and cry with him, "my bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart, my heart maketh a noise in me," and to put away despondency's great cloud by the drops from my eyes, I have recourse to founts of tears. Amid a storm so wild it is fitting that the pilots be awake, to battle wills the tempest, and take heed for the safety of the ship: the sailors ought to cease from their strife, and strive to undo the danger alike by prayer and skill: the mariners ought to keep the peace, and quarrel neither with one another nor with the pilots, but implore the Lord of the sea to banish the darkness by His rod. No one now is willing to do anything of the kind; and, just as happens in a night-engagement, we cannot recognise one another, we leave our enemies alone, and waste our weapons against our own side; we wound our comrades for foes, while all the while the bystanders laugh at our drunken folly, enjoy our disasters, and are delighted to see us engaged in mutual destruction. The responsibility for all this lies with those who have striven to corrupt the apostolic faith, and have dared to add a monstrous doctrine to the teaching of the Gospels; with them that have accepted the impious "Chapters" which they have sent forth with anathematisms to the imperial city, and have confirmed them, as they have imagined, by their own signatures. But these "Chapters" have sprouted without doubt from the sour root of Apollinarius; they are tainted with Arian and Eunomian error; look into them carefully, and you will find that they are not clear of the impiety of Manes and Valentinus.
In his very first chapter he rejects the dispensation which has been made on our behalf, teaching that God the Word did not assume human nature, but was Himself changed into flesh, thus laying down that the incarnation took place not in reality but in semblance and seeming. This is the outcome of the impiety of Marcion, Manes, and Valentinus.
In his second and third chapters, as though quite oblivious of what he had stated in his preface, he brings in the hypostatic union, and a meeting by natural union, and by these terms he represents that a kind of mixture and confusion was effected of the divine nature and of the form of the servant. This comes of the innovation of the Apollinarian heresy.
In his fourth chapter he denies the distinction of the terms of evangelists and apostles, and refuses to allow, as the teaching of the orthodox Father's has allowed, the terms of divine dignity to be understood of the divine nature, while the terms of humility, spoken in human sense, are applied to the nature assumed; whence the rightminded can easily detect the kinship with impiety. For Arius and Eunomius, asserting the only begotten Son of God to be a creature, and made out of the non-existent, and a servant, have ventured to apply to His godhead what is said in lowly and human sense; establishing by such means the difference of substance and the unlikeness. Besides this, to be brief, he argues that the very impassible and immutable Godhead of the Christ suffered, and was crucified, dead, and buried. This goes beyond even the madness of Arius and Eunomius, for this pitch of impiety has not been reached even by them that dare to call the maker and creator of the universe a creature. Furthermore he blasphemes against the Holy Ghost, denying that It proceeds from the Father, in accordance with the word of the Lord, but maintaining that It has Its origin of the Son. Here we have the fruit of the Apollinarian seed; here we come near the evil husbandry of Macedonius. Such are the offspring of the Egyptian, viler children of a vile father. This growth, which men, entrusted with the healing of souls, ought to make abortive while yet in the womb, or destroy as soon as it is born, as dangerous and deadly to mankind, is cherished by these excellent persons, and promoted with great energy, alike to their own ruin and to that of all who will listen to them. We, on the contrary, earnestly desire to keep our heritage untouched; and the faith which we have received, and in which we have been ourselves baptized, and baptize others, we strive to preserve uninjured and undefiled. We confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and body, was begotten of the Father before the ages, as touching the Godhead; and in the last days for us men and our salvation (was born) of the Virgin Mary; that the same Lord is of one substance with the Father as touching the Godhead, and of one substance with us as touching the manhood. For there was an union of two natures. Wherefore we acknowledge one Christ, one Son, one Lord; but we do not destroy the union; we believe it to have been made without confusion, in obedience to the word of the Lord to the Jews, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." If on the contrary there had been mixture and confusion, and one nature was made out of both, He ought to have said "Destroy me and in three days I shall be raised." But now, to show that there is a distinction between God according to His nature, and the temple, and that both are one Christ, His words are "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," clearly teaching that it was not God who was undergoing destruction, but the temple. The nature of this latter was susceptible of destructions while the power of the former raised what was being destroyed. Furthermore it is in obedience to the divine Scriptures that we acknowledge the Christ to be God and man. That our Lord Jesus Christ is God is asserted by the blessed evangelist John "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was. God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made." And again, "That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." And the Lord Himself distinctly teaches us, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' And "I and my Father are one' and "I am in the Father and the Father in me,' and the blessed Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews says "Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power" and in the epistle to the Philippians "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus; who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God but made Himself of no reputation and took upon Him the form of a servant." And in the Epistle to the Romans, "Whose are the fathers and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came who is over all God blessed for ever. Amen." And in the epistle to Titus "Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." And Isaiah exclaims "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called, Angel of great counsel, Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, powerful, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the Age to come." And again "In chains they shall come over and they shall fall unto thee. They shall make supplication unto thee shying, surely God is in thee anti there is none else, there is no God. Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour." The name Emmanuel, however, indicates both God and man, for it is interpreted in the Gospel to mean "God with us," that is to say "God in man," God in our nature. And the divine Jeremiah too utters the prediction "This is our God and there shall none other be accounted of in comparison with him. He hath found out all the way of knowledge and hath given it unto Jacob His servant and to Israel His beloved and afterward did He show Himself upon earth and conversed with men." And countless other passages might be found as well in the holy gospels and in the writings of the apostles as in the predictions of the prophets, setting forth that our Lord Jesus Christ is very God.
That after the Incarnation He is spoken of as Man our Lord Himself teaches in His words to the Jews "Why go ye about to kill me?" "A man that hath told you the truth." And in the first Epistle to the Corinthians the blessed Paul writes "For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead," and to show of whom he is speaking he explains his words and says, "For as in Adam all die even so in Christ shall all be made alive." And writing to Timothy he says, "For there is l one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." In the Acts in his speech at Athens "The times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent; because He hath appointed a day in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that than whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised him from the dead." And the blessed Peter preaching to the Jews says, "Ye men of Israel, hear these words Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by Him in the midst of you," and the prophet Isaiah when predicting the sufferings of the Lord Christ, whom but just before he had called God, calls man in the passage "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." "Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows." I might have collected other consentient passages of holy Scripture and inserted them in my letter had I not known yon to be practised in the divine oracles as befits the man called blessed in the Psalms. I now leave the collection of evidence to your own diligence and proceed with my subject.
We confess then that our Lord Jesus Christ is very God and very man. We do not divide the one Christ into two persons, but we believe two natures to be united without confusion. We shall thus be able without difficulty to refute even the manifold blasphemy of the heretics: for many and various are the errors of those who have rebelled against the truth, as we shall proceed to point out. Marcion and Manes deny that God the Word assumed human nature and do not believe that our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin. They say that God the Word Himself was fashioned in human form and appeared as man rather in semblance than in reality.
Valentinus and Bardesanes admit the birth, but they deny the assumption of our nature and affirm that the Son of God employed the Virgin as it were as a mere conduit.
Sabellius the Libyan, Photinus, Marcellus the Galatian, and Paul of Samosata say that a mere man was born of the Virgin, but openly deny that the eternal Christ was God.
Arius and Eunomius maintain that God the Word assumed only a body of the Virgin.
Apollinarius adds to the body an unreasonable soul, as though the incarnation of God the Word had taken place not for the sake of reasonable beings but of unreasonable, while the teaching of the Apostles is that perfect man was assumed by perfect God, as is proved by the words "Who being in the form of God took the form of a servant;" for "form" is put instead of "nature" and "substance" and indicates that having the nature of God He took the nature of a servant.
When therefore we are disputing with Marcion, Manes and Valentinus, the earliest inventors of impiety, we endeavour to prove from the divine Scriptures that the Lord Christ is not only God but also man.
When, however, we are proving to the ignorant that the doctrine of Arius, Eunomius and Apollinarius about the oeconomy is incomplete, we show from the divine oracles of the Spirit that the assumed nature was perfect.
The impiety of Sabellius, Photinus, Marcellus, and Paulus, we refute by proving by the evidence of divine Scripture that the Lord Christ was not only man but also eternal God, of one substance with the Father. That He assumed a reasonable soul is stated by our Lord Himself in the words "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour." And again "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death." And in another place "I have power to lay down my soul (life A. V.) and I have power to take it again. No man taketh it from me." And the angel said to Joseph, "Take the young child and His mother and go into the land of Israel; for they are dead which sought the young child's soul (life A. V.)" And the Evangelist says "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man." Now what increases in stature and wisdom is not the Godhead which is ever perfect, but the human nature which comes into being in time, grows, and is made perfect.
Wherefore all the human qualities of the Lord Christ, hunger, I mean, and thirst and weariness, sleep, fear, sweat, prayer, and ignorance, and the like, we affirm to belong to our nature which God the Word assumed and united to Himself in effecting our salvation. But the restitution of motion to the maimed, the resurrection of the dead, the supply of loaves, and all the other miracles we believe to be works of the divine power. In this sense I say that the same Lord Christ both suffers and destroys suffering; suffers, that is, as touching the visible, and destroys suffering as touching the ineffably indwelling Godhead. This is proved beyond question by the narrative of the holy evangelists, from whom we learn that when lying in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes, He was announced by a star, worshipped by magi and hymned by angels. Thus we reverent discern that the swaddling bands and the want of a bed and all the poverty belonged to the manhood; while the journey of the magi and the guiding of the star and the company of the angels proclaim the Godhead of the unseen. In like manner He makes His escape into Egypt and avoids the fury of Herod by flight, for He was man; but as the Prophet says "He shakes the idols of Egypt,' for He was by nature God. He is circumcised; He keeps the law; and offers offerings of purification, because He sprang from the root of Jesse. And, as man, He was under the law; and afterwards did away with the law and gave the new covenant, because He was a lawgiver and had promised by the prophets that He Himself would give it. He was baptized by John; and this shews His sharing what is ours. He is testified to by the Father from on high and is pointed out by the Spirit; this proclaims Him eternal. He hungered; but He fed many thousands with five loaves; the latter is divine, the former human. He thirsted and He asked for water; but He was the well of life; the former of His human weakness, the latter of His divine power. He fell asleep in the boat, but he put the tempest of the sea to sleep; the former of His human nature, the latter of His efficient and creative power which has gifted all things with their being. He was weary as he walked; but He healed the halt and raised dead men from their tombs; the former of human weakness, the latter of a power passing that of this world. He feared death and He destroyed death; the former shows that He was mortal, the latter that He was immortal or rather giver of life. "He was crucified," as the blessed Paul says "through weakness.' But as the same Paul says "Yet He liveth by the power of God." Let that word "weakness" teach us that He was not nailed to the tree as the Almighty, the Uncircumscribed, the Immutable and Invariable, but that the nature quickened by the power of God, was according to the Apostle's teaching dead and buried, both death and burial being proper to the form of the servant. "He broke the gates of brass and cut the bars of iron in sunder" and destroyed the power of death and in three days raised His own temple. These are proofs of the form of God in accordance with the Lord's words "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." Thus in the one Christ through the sufferings we contemplate the manhood and through the miracles we apprehend the Godhead. We do not divide the two natures into two Christs, and we know that of the Father God the Word was begotten and that of the seed of Abraham and David our nature was assumed. Wherefore also the blessed Paul says when discoursing of Abraham "He saith not and to seeds as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed which is Christ," and writing to Timothy he says " Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel." And to the Romans he writes "Concerning His son Jesus Christ ... which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh." And again "Whose are the fathers and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came." And the Evangelist writes "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham," and the blessed Peter in the Acts says David " being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his loins, He would raise up Christ to sit on his throne, he seeing this before spake of his resurrection," and God says to Abraham "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed," and Isaiah " There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of His roots; and there shall rest upon Him a the spirit of wisdom and understanding the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of piety and the spirit of the fear of the Lord shall fill Him." And a little further on " And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek; and His rest shall be glorious."
From these quotations it is made plain that according to the flesh, the Christ was descended from Abraham and David and was of the same nature as theirs; while according to the Godhead He is Everlasting Son and Word of God, ineffably and in superhuman manner begotten of the Father, and co- eternal with Him as brightness and express image and Word. For as the word in relation to intelligence and brightness in relation to light are inseparably connected, so is the only begotten Son in relation to His own Father. We assert therefore that our Lord Jesus Christ is only begotten, and first born Son of God; only begotten both before the incarnation arid after the incarnation, but firstborn after being born of the Virgin. For the name first-born seems to be in a sense contrary to that of only begotten, because the only Son begotten of any one is called only begotten, while the eldest of several brothers is called first-born. The divine Scriptures state God the Word alone to have been begotten of tile Father; but the only begotten becomes also first-born, by taking our nature of the Virgin, and deigning to call brothers those who have trusted in Him; so that the same is only begotten in that He is God, first born in that He is Man. Thus acknowledging the two natures we adore the one Christ and offer Him one adoration, for we believe that the union took place from the moment of the conception in the Virgin's holy womb. Wherefore also we call tile holy Virgin both Mother of God and Mother of man, since the Lord Christ Himself is called God and man in the divine Scripture. The name Emmanuel proclaims the union of the two natures. If we acknowledge the Christ to be both God and Man and so call Him, who is so insensate as to shrink from using the term "Mother of man" with that of " Mother of God"? For we use both terms of the Lord Christ. For this reason the Virgin is honoured and called "full of grace." What sensible man then would object to name the Virgin in accordance with the titles of the Saviour, when on His account she is honoured by the faithful? For He who was born of her is not worshipped on her account, but she is honoured with the highest titles on account of Him Who was born from her.
Suppose the Christ to be God only, and to have taken the origin of His existence froth the Virgin, then let the Virgin be styled and named only "Mother of God" as having given birth to a being divine by nature. Bat if the Christ is both God and man and was God from everlasting (inasmuch as He did not begin to exist, being co-eternal with the Father that begat Him) and in these last days was born man of His human nature, then let him who wishes to define doctrine in both directions devise appellations for the Virgin with the explanation which of them befits the nature and which the union. But if any one should wish to deliver a panegyric and to compose hymns, and to repeat praises, and is naturally anxious to use the most august names; then, not laying down doctrine as in the former case, but with rhetorical laudation, and expressing all possible admiration at the mightiness of the mystery, let him gratify his heart's desire, let him employ high names, let him praise and let him wonder. Many instances of this kind are found in the writings of orthodox teachers. But on all occasions let moderation be respected. All praise to him who said that "moderation is best," although he is not of our herd.
This is the confession of the faith of the Church; this is the doctrine taught by evangelists and apostles. For this faith, by God's grace I will not refuse to undergo many deaths. This faith we have striven to convey to them that now err and stray, again and again challenging them to discussion, and eager to show them the truth, but without success. With a suspicion of their probably plain confutation, they have shirked the encounter; for verily falsehood is rotten and yokefellow of obscurity. "Every one," it is written "that doeth evil cometh not to the light lest his deeds should be reproved" by the light.
Since, therefore, after many efforts, I have failed in persuading them to recognise the truth, I have returned to my own churches, filled at once with sorrow and with joy; with joy on account of my own freedom from error; and with sorrow at the unsoundness of my members. I therefore implore you to pray with all your might to our loving Lord, and to cry unto Him, " 'Spare Thy people, O Lord and give not Thy heritage to reproach.' Feed us O Lord that we become not as we were in the beginning when Thou didst not rule over us nor was Thy name invoked to help us. ' We are become a reproach to our neighhours, a scorn and derision to them that are round about us,' because wicked doctrines have come into Thy inheritance. They have polluted Thy holy temple in that the daughters of stranger's have rejoiced over our troubles. A little while ago we were of one mind and one tongue and now are divided into many tongues. But, O Lord our God, give us Thy peace which we have lost by setting Thy commandments at naught. O Lord we know none other than Thee. We call Thee by Thy name. ' Make both one and break down tile middle wall of the partition,' namely the iniquity that has sprung up. Gather us one by one, Thy new Israel, building up Jerusalem and gathering together the outcasts of Israel. Let us be made once more one flock and all be fed by Thee; for Thou art the good Shepherd ' Who giveth His life for the shoe .' 'Awake, why sleepest Thou O Lord, arise cast us not off forever.' Rebuke the winds and the sea; give Thy Church calm and safety from the waves."
These words and words like these I implore you to utter to the God of all; for He is good and full of loving-kindness anti ever fulfils the will of them that fear Him. He will therefore listen to your prayer, and will scatter this darkness deeper than the plague of Egypt. He will give you His own calm of love, and will gather them that are scattered abroad and welcome them that have been cast out. Then shall be heard "the voice of rejoicing and salvation in the tabernacles of the righteous." Then shall we cry unto Him we have been "glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us and the years wherein we have seen evil," and you when you have been granted your prayer shall praise Him in the words "Blessed be God which not turned away my prayer nor His mercy from me."
Proof that after the Incarnation our Lord Jesus Christ, was one Son.
The authors of slanders against me allege that I divide the one Lord Jesus Christ into two sons. But so far am I from holding this opinion that I charge with impiety all who dare to say so. For I have been taught. by the divine Scripture to worship one Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, God the Word incarnate. For we confess the same to be both God eternal, and made man in the last days for the sake of man's salvation; but made man not by the change of the Godhead but by the assumption of the manhood. For the nature of this godhead is immutable and invariable, as is that of the Father who begat Him before the ages. And whatever would be understood of the substance of the Father will also be wholly found in the substance of the only begotten; for of that substance He is begotten. This our Lord taught when the said to Philip "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father " and again in another place "All things that the Father hath are mine," and elsewhere " I and the Father are one," and very many other passages may be quoted setting forth the identity of substance.
It follows that He did not become God: He was God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God." He was not man: He became man, and the so became by taking on Him our nature: So says the blessed Paid:—"Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, hut made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant." And again: "For verily He took not on Him the nature of angel's; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham." And again; Forasmuch then as the children are partaker's of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same." Thus He was both passible and impassible; mortal and immortal; passible, on the one hand, and mortal, as man; impassible, on the other, and immortal, as God. As God He raised His own flesh, which was dead;—as His own words declare: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." And as man, He was passible and mortal up to the time of the passion. For, after the resurrection, even as man He is impassible, immortal, and incorruptible; and He discharges divine lightnings; not that according to the flesh tie has been changed into the nature of Godhead, but still preserving the distinctive marks of humanity. Nor yet is His body uncircumscribed, for this is peculiar to the divine nature alone, but it abides in its former circumscription. This He teaches in the words He spake to the disciples even after His resurrection "Behold my hands and feet that it is I myself; handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." While He was thus beheld He went up into heaven; thus has He promised to come again, thus shall He be seen both by them that have believed and them that have crucified, for it is written "They shall look on Him whom they pierced." We therefore worship the Son, but we contemplate in Him either nature in its perfection, both that which took, and that which was taken; the one of God and the other of David. For this reason also He is styled both Son of the living God and Son of David; either nature receiving its proper title. Accordingly the divine scripture calls him both God and man, and the blessed Paul exclaims "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all." But Him whom here he calls man in another place he describes as God for he says "Looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." And yet in another place he uses both names at once saying "Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came who is over all God blessed for ever. Amen."
Thus he has stated the same Christ to be of the Jews according to the flesh, and God over all as God. Similarly the prophet Isaiah writes "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. ... Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows," and shortly afterwards he says "Who shall declare His generation?" This is spoken not of man but of God. Thus through Micah God says "Thou Bethlehem in the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah, for out of thee shall come a governor that shall rule my people Israel, whose goings forth have been as of old from everlasting." Now by saying "From thee shall come forth a ruler" he exhibits the oeconomy of the incarnation; and by adding "whose goings forth have been as of old from everlasting" he declares the Godhead begotten of the Father before the ages.
Since we have been thus taught by the divine scripture, and have further found that the teachers who have been at different periods illustrious in the Church, are of the same opinion, we do our best to keep our heritage inviolate; worshipping one Son of God, one God the Father, and one Holy Ghost; but at the same time recognising the distinction between flesh and Godhead. And as we assert them that divide our one Lord Jesus Christ into two sons to trangress flora the road trodden by the holy apostles, so do we declare the maintainers of the doctrine that the Godhead of the only begotten and the manhood have been made one nature to fall headlong into the opposite ravine. These doctrines we hold; these we preach; for these we do battle.
The slander of the libellers that represent me as worshipping two sons is refuted by the plain facts of the case. I teach all persons who come to holy Baptism the faith put forth at Nicaea; and, when I celebrate the sacrament of regeneration I baptize them that make profession of their faith in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, pronouncing each name by itself. And when I am performing divine service in the churches it is my wont to give glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; not sons, but Son. If then I uphold two sons, whether of the two is glorified by me, and whether remains unhonoured? For I have not quite come to such a pitch of stupidity as to acknowledge two sons and leave one of them without any tribute of respect. It follows then even from this fact that the slander is proved slander,—for I worship one only begotten Son, God the Word incarnate. And I call the holy Virgin "Mother of God" because she has given birth to the Emmanuel, which means "God with us." But the prophet who predicted the Emmanuel a little further on has written of him that "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name is called Angel of great counsel, wonderful, counsellor, mighty God, powerful, Prince of peace, Father of the age to come." Now if the babe born of the Virgin is styled "Mighty God," then it is only with reason that the mother is called "Mother of God." For the mother shares the honour of her offspring, and the Virgin is both mother of the Lord Christ as man, and again is His servant as Lord and Creator and God.
On account of this difference of term He is said by the divine Paul to be "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor end of life." He is without father as touching His humanity; for as man He was born of a mother alone. And He is without mother as God, for He was begotten from everlasting of the Father alone. And again He is without descent as God while as man He has descent. For it is written "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham." His descent is also given by the divine Luke. So again, as God, He has no beginning of days for He was begotten before the ages; neither has He an end of life, for His nature is immortal and impassible. But as man He had both a beginning of days, for He was born in the reign of Augustus Caesar, and an end of life, for He was crucified in the reign of Tiberius Caesar. But now, as I have already said, even His human nature is immortal; and, as He ascended, so again shall He come according to the words of the Angel—"This same Jesus which is taken up from you into Heaven shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven."
This is the doctrine delivered to us by the divine prophets; this is the doctrine of the company of the holy apostles; this is the doctrine of the great saints of the East and of the West; of the far-famed Ignatius, who received his archpriesthood by the right hand of the great Peter, and for the sake of his confession of Christ was devoured by savage beasts; and of the great Eustathius, who presided over the assembled council, and on account of his fiery zeal for true religion was driven into exile. This doctrine was preached by the illustrious Meletius, at the cost of no less pains, for thrice was he driven from his flock in the cause of the apostles' doctrines; by Flavianus, glory of the imperial see; and by the admirable Ephraim, instrument of divine grace, who has left us in the Syriac tongue a written heritage of good things; by Cyprian, the illustrious ruler of Carthage and of all Libya, who for Christ's sake found a death in the fire; by Damasus, bishop of great Rome, and by Ambrose, glory of Milan, who preached and wrote it in the language of Rome.
The same was taught by the great luminaries of Alexandria, Alexander and Athanasius, men of one mind, who underwent sufferings celebrated throughout the world. This was the pasture given to their flocks by the great teachers of the imperial city, by Gregory, shining friend and supporter of the truth; by John, teacher of the world, by Atticus, their successor alike in see and in sentiment. By these doctrines Basil, great light of the truth, and Gregory sprung from the same parents, and Amphilochius, who from him received the gift of the high-priesthood, taught their contemporaries, and have left the same to us in their writings for a goodly heritage. Time would fail me to tell of Polycarp, and Irenaeus, of Methodius and Hippolytus, and the rest of the teachers of the Church. In a word I assert that I follow the divine oracles and at the same time all these saints. By the grace of the spirit they dived into the depths of God-inspired scripture and both themselves perceived its mind, and made it plain to all that are willing to learn. Difference in tongue has wrought no difference in doctrine, for they were channels of the grace of the divine spirit, using the stream from one and the same fount.
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.