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Letter LVIII.—Second Letter to Orsisius.

But the most holy Archbishop Athanasius, when he heard about our father Theodorus, was grieved, and sent this letter to the Abbat Orsisius and the brethren to console them for his decease, as follows:’—

Athanasius to Orsisius, Abbat, father of monks, and to all with him who practise the solitary life, and are settled in faith in God, beloved brethren most longed for in the Lord, greeting.

I have heard about the decease of the blessed Theodorus46954695    On Theodore see Amelineau, S. Pakhôme, &c., pp. xcv.–xcvii. The death of Theodore is fixed for April 27, 364, on the following grounds. He died (Vit. Pachom. 95) of a short and sudden illness, on Pachon 2 (April 27), and shortly after Easter. Moreover his death took place 18 years after that of Pachomius. But Ammon (as he tells us himself, supr. p. 487) became a Christian and a monk ‘a year and more’ after March 15, 351 (proclamation of Gallus as Cæsar), and six years after the death of Pachomius. (Ep. Amm. 4, 5.) This dates the latter event a little less than five years before March 15, 351. But Pachomius died, according to his Life, on Pachon 14 (May 9), of an epidemic which attacked the community after Easter. This double condition is satisfied by the year 346, in which Easter fell on Pharm. 4, forty days before the day of Pachomius’ decease. If then Pachomius died in 346, Theodore died in 364. Against this result we have (1) the fact that in that year April 27 was twenty-three days after Easter; but the Easter gathering of the monks would last over April 11 (Low Sunday), and the death of Theodore would come suddenly enough a fortnight later; (2) the fragment (supr. p. 551) probably belonging to Letter 39, which a coptic life of Theodore makes him state that he received before his last Easter. But this cannot be correct; for all known data forbid us to place the death of Theodore as late as 367. (Tillemont’s tentative opinion, vii. 691, 761, is bound up with an obsolete chronology of the exiles of Athan.) On the other hand Theodore cannot have died as early as 363. Athanasius was with him (supr. p. 487) in the summer of that year, and when our present letter was written Ath. had clearly kept Easter at home, which suits 364, but excludes 363., and the tidings caused me great anxiety, knowing as I did his value to you. Now if it had not been Theodorus, I should have used many words to you, with tears, considering what follows after death. But since it is Theodorus whom you and I have known, what need I say in my letter save ‘Blessed is’ Theodorus, ‘who hath not walked in the council of the ungodly46964696    Ps. i. 1.?’ But if ‘he is blessed that feareth the Lord46974697    Ps. cxii. 1.,’ we may now confidently call him blessed, having the firm assurance that he has reached as it were a haven, and has a life without care. Would that the same had also befallen each one of us; would that each of us in his running might thus arrive; would that each of us, on his voyage, might moor his own bark there in the stormless haven, so that, at rest with the fathers, he might say, ‘here will I dwell, for I have a delight therein46984698    Ib. cxxxii. 14..’ Wherefore, brethren beloved and most longed-for, weep not for Theodorus, for he ‘is not dead, but sleepeth46994699    Matt. ix. 24..’ 570Let none weep when he remembers him, but imitate his life. For one must not grieve over one that is gone to the place where grief is not. This I write to you all in common; but especially to you, beloved and most longed for Orsisius, in order that now that he is fallen asleep, you may take up the whole charge, and take his place among the brethren. For while he survived, you two were as one, and when one was away, the work of both was carried on: and when both were there you were as one, discoursing to the beloved ones what made for their good. Thus act, then, and so doing write and tell me of the safety of yourself and of the brotherhood. And I exhort you all to pray together that the Lord may grant further peace to the Churches. For we now kept festival with joy, both Easter and Pentecost, and we rejoice in the benefits of the Lord. I write to you all. Greet all who fear the Lord. Those with me greet you. I pray that you may be well in the Lord, beloved and much-longed-for brethren.


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