Fathers of the Church
by Theodoret in 431 | translated by Blomfield Jackson
First petition of the commissioners, addressed from Chalcedon, to the Emperor.
It had been much to be desired that the word of true religion should not be adulterated by ridiculous explanations, and least of all by men who have obtained the priesthood and high office in the churches, and who have been induced, we know not how, by ambition, by lust of authority, and by certain poor promises, to despise all the commandments of Christ. Their only motive has been the desire to pay court to a man who has the presumption to hope that he and his abettors will be able to manage the whole business with success; I mean Cyril of Alexandria. Of his own frivolity he has intruded into the holy churches of God heretical doctrines which he believes himself able to support by argument. He expects to escape the chastisement of sinners by the sole help of Memnon and the bishops of the aforesaid conspiracy.
We are lovers of silence; in general we advise a philosophic course of action. Now, however, sensible that to be silent and to cultivate philosophy would be to throw away the Faith, we turn in supplication to you who, next to the Goodness on high, are the sole preserver of the world. We know that it specially belongs to you to be anxious for true religion, as having, up to this present day, continually protected it, and being in turn protected by it.
We beg you therefore to receive this treatise, as though our defence were to be pleaded in the presence of the most holy God; not because we are less active in the sacred cause, but because we are devoted to true religion, and are speaking in its behalf. For in Christian times the clergy have no more bounden duty than to bear testimony before so faithful a prince, however ready we might have been to yield our bodies and to lay down our lives a thousand times in the battle for the faith. We therefore beseech you by God who seeth all things, by our Lord Jesus Christ who will judge all men in righteousness, by the Holy Ghost by whose grace you hold your empire, and by the elect angels who are your guardians and whom one day you shall see standing by the awful throne, and ceaselessly offering unto God that dread doxology which it is now sought to corrupt; we beseech your piety, besieged as you now are by the craftiness of certain men who are forbidding access to you, and are supporting the introduction into the faith of heretical Chapters, utterly at variance with sound doctrine, and tainted with heresy, to order all who subscribe them, or assent to them, and wish, after your promised pardon, to dispute further, to come forth and submit to the discipline of the Church. Nothing, sir, is more worthy of an emperor than to fight for the truth, for which you hurried to join battle with Persians and other barbarians, when Christ granted you to win fair victories in acknowledgment of your zeal towards Him. We beseech you that the questions at issue may be put before your piety in writing, for thus their purport will be more easily perceived, and the transgressors will be convicted for all future time. If however anyone, heedless of the utterances for which he shall be at fault, shall wish by his teaching to prevail over the right faith, it will be the part of your justice and judgment to consider whether the very name of teachers has not been thrown away by men who are reluctant to run any risks concerning the doctrines which they introduce, refusing to be obedient to your orders, that they may escape conviction for having done wrong; nor reckoning them worth refutation, that their mutual conspiracy be not proved fruitless. For now it is clear, from those that have been ordained by them that some of them, in return for this impiety, have bethought them of obliging certain persons by the concession of dignities and have devised certain other means. This will become still more clear; and your piety will soon see that they will distribute the rewards of their treachery, as though they were the spoils of the faith of Christ.
But we, of whom some were long ago ordained by the very pious Juvenal, bishop of Jerusalem, have kept silence, although it was our duty to contend for the canon, that we might not seem to be troubled for our own reputation's sake. We are now perfectly well aware of his active trickery through Phoenicia Secunda and Arabia. We really have not time to attend to such things. We are men who have preferred rather to be deprived of the very places of which the ministry has been entrusted to us, and so of our life, than of our ready zeal for the faith. To the attempts of those men we will oppose the sentence of God and of your piety.
Now also we beg that true religion may be your one and primary care, and that the brightness of orthodoxy, which at length with difficulty blazed forth in the days of Constantine of holy name, was maintained by your blessed grandfather and father, and was extended by your majesty among the Persians and other barbarians, be not allowed to grow dim in the very innermost courts of your imperial palace, or, in your serenity's days, to be dispersed.
You will not send, sir, a divided Christianity into Persia; nor here at home will there be anything great, while we are distressed by disputes, and while there is no one existing on their side to settle them; no one will take part in a divided Word and Sacraments; no one without loss of faith will cut himself off from such famous fathers and saints who have never been condemned. No imperial successes will be permitted to a people at variance among themselves; a burst of derision will be roused from the enemies of true religion; and all the other noxious consequences of their malignant controversy are too numerous to reckon.
If there is anyone who thinks little of the science of theology, let that one be any one in the world rather than he to whom the Lord has given the supreme government of the world. Our petition is that your piety will give judgment, for God will guide your intelligence into exact comprehension. Finally, should this be impracticable (and all the engagements of your piety we cannot know) we beseech your serenity to give us leave to travel safely home. We are aware that to the dioceses entrusted to us cause of offence is given by so protracted a delay, on account of those men who even in sacred matters look out for opportunities of dissension whence no advantage can be derived.
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.