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Chapter XXVI.—Two Epistles from Innocent, the Pope of Rome, of which one was addressed to John Chrysostom, and the other to the Clergy of Constantinople concerning John.
Independent chapter; cf. Pallad. Dialog.
bishop of Rome,16171617
Innocent I., a.d.
was extremely indignant when apprised of the measures that had been
adopted against John, and condemned 416the whole proceedings. He then turned his
attention to the convocation of an œcumenical council, and wrote
to John and to the clergy of Constantinople in part. Subjoined are the
two letters, precisely as I found them, translated from the Latin into
“Innocent, to the beloved brother John.
“Although one conscious of his own innocence ought to expect every blessing and to ask for mercy from God, yet it seems well to us to send you a befitting letter by Cyriacus, the deacon, and to counsel you to long-suffering, lest the contumely cast upon you should have more power in subduing your courage than the testimony of a good conscience in encouraging you to hope. It is not requisite to teach you, who are the teacher and pastor of so great a people, that God always tries the best of men to see whether they will continue in the height of patience, and will not give way to any labor of suffering; and how true it is that the conscience is a firm thing against all that befalls us unjustly, and unless one be moved in these misfortunes by patience, he furnishes a ground for evil surmising. For he ought to endure everything, who first trusts in God, and then in his own conscience. Especially when an excellent and good man can exercise himself in endurance, he cannot be overcome; for the Holy Scriptures guard his thoughts, and the devout lections, which we expound to the people, abound in examples. These Scriptures assure us that almost all the saints are variously and continuously afflicted, and are tested by some investigation, and so have come to the crown of patience. Let thy conscience encourage thy love, O most honored brother; for that faculty amid tribulations possesses an encouragement for virtue. For since Christ, the Master, is observing, the purified conscience will station you in the haven of peace.”
“Innocent, the bishop, to the presbyters, deacons, and all the clergy, and to the people of the church of Constantinople under John, the bishop, greeting to you, beloved brethren.
“From the letters of your love that you forwarded to me through Germanus, the presbyter, and Cassianus, the deacon, I have learned, with anxious solicitude, the scenes of evil which you have placed before our eyes. I have frequently seen during its repeated reading with what calamities and labors the faith is wearied. Only the consolation of patience heals such a state of affairs. Our God will shortly put an end to such tribulations, and they will eventually tend to your profit. But we recognized with approbation your proposition, placed at the beginning of the letter of your love; to wit, that this very consolation is necessary, and embraces many proofs of your patience; for our consolation, which we ought to have conveyed, you have anticipated in your epistle. Our Lord is wont to furnish this patience to the suffering, in order that when they fall into tribulations, the servants of Christ may encourage themselves; for they should reason within themselves that what they suffer has happened previously to the saints. And even we ourselves derive comfort from your letters, for we are not strangers to your sufferings; but we are disciplined in you. Who, indeed, can endure to witness the errors introduced by those who were bound especially to be enthusiasts for the quiet of peace and for its concord? But far from maintaining peace, they expel guiltless priests from the front seat of their own churches. John, our brother and fellow-minister and your bishop, has been the first to suffer this unjust treatment without being allowed a hearing. No accusation was brought, none was heard. What proposition was it that was nullified, so that no show of judgment might arise or be sought? Others were seated in the places of living priests, as though any who began from such discord would be able to possess anything or do anything rightly in any one’s judgment. We have never known such audacities to have been done by our fathers. They rather prohibited such innovations by refusing to give power to any one to be ordained in another’s place while the occupant was living, since he is unable to be a bishop who is unjustly substituted.
“With respect to the observance of canons, we
declare that those defined at Nicæa are alone16181618
The reckless historical sense of the West has a
strong proof here.
entitled to the obedience and recognition of the Catholic Church. If
any individuals should attempt to introduce other canons, at variance
with those of Nicæa, and such as are a compilation by heretics,
such canons ought to be rejected by the Catholic Church, for it is not
lawful to add the inventions of heretics to the Catholic canons. For
they always wish to belittle the decision of the Nicene fathers through
opponents and lawless men. We say, then, that the canons we have
censured are not only to be disregarded, but to be condemned with the
dogmas of heretics and schismatics, even as they have been formerly
condemned at the council of Sardica by the bishops who were our
predecessors. For it would be better, O most honored brethren, that
these transactions be condemned, than that any actions should be
confirmed contrary to the canons.
“What measures ought we to adopt now in the present circumstances against such deeds? It is necessary that there be a synodical investigation, and a synod we long ago said should be gathered. There are no other means of arrest417ing the fury of the tempest. In order that we may attain this it will be profitable meanwhile for that healing to be exalted which comes by the will of the great God and of His Christ, our Lord. We shall thus behold the cessation of all the woes which have been excited by the envy of the devil, and which have served as trials for our faith. If we remain steadfast in the faith, there is nothing that we ought not to expect from the Lord. We are constantly watching for the opportunity of convening an œcumenical council, whereby, in accordance with the will of God, an end may be put to these harassing commotions. Let us, then, endure in the interval, and, fortified by the wall of patience, let us trust in the help of our God for the restoration of all things.
“We had previously been made acquainted with all that you have related concerning your trials, by our fellow-bishops Demetrius, Cyriacus, Eulysius, and Palladius, who visited Rome at different periods and are now with us; from them we had learned all the details by a complete inquiry.”
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