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Letter LII.

From Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus, to Leo. (See vol. iii. of this Series, p. 293.)

To Leo, bishop of Rome.

I.  If Paul appealed to Peter how much more must ordinary folk have recourse to his successor.

If Paul, the herald of the Truth, the trumpet of the Holy Ghost, had recourse to the great Peter, in order to obtain a decision from him for those at Antioch who were disputing about living by the Law, much more do we small and humble folk run to the Apostolic See to get healing from you for the sores of the churches.  For it is fitting that you should in all things have the pre-eminence, seeing that your See possesses many peculiar privileges.  For other cities get a name for size or beauty or population, and some that are devoid of these advantages are compensated by certain spiritual gifts:  but your city has the fullest 56abundance of good things from the Giver of all good.  For she is of all cities the greatest and most famous, the mistress of the world and teeming with population.  And besides this she has created an empire which is still predominant and has imposed her own name upon her subjects.  But her chief decoration is her Faith, to which the Divine Apostle is a sure witness when he exclaims “your faith is proclaimed in all the world375375    Rom. i. 8.;” and if immediately after receiving the seeds of the saving Gospel she bore such a weight of wondrous fruit, what words are sufficient to express the piety which is now found in her?  She has, too, the tombs of our common fathers and teachers of the Truth, Peter and Paul376376    It is sufficient here to quote Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. ii. 25) as one of the earliest (before 340) maintainers of this tradition.  In this passage he again quotes Gaius of Rome (3rd cent.) and Dionysius of Corinth (2nd cent.) as corroborative authorities.  Eusebius’s own words are these:  “Paul is recorded to have been beheaded in Rome itself, and Peter likewise to have been impaled.  And this statement is supported by their names, which remain to this day inscribed in the cemeteries there.”, to illumine the souls of the faithful.  And this blessed and divine pair arose indeed in the East, and shed its rays in all directions, but voluntarily underwent the sunset of life in the West, from whence now it illumines the whole world.  These have rendered your See so glorious:  this is the chief of all your goods.  And their See is still blest by the light of their God’s presence, seeing that therein He has placed your Holiness to shed abroad the rays of the one true Faith.

II.  He commends Leo’s zeal against the Manichees, and latterly against Eutychianism, as evidenced especially in the Tome.

Of which thing indeed, though there are many other proofs to be found, your zeal against the ill-famed Manichæans is proof enough, that zeal which your holiness has of late years displayed377377    Viz., in 444:  cf. Letter VII. supra, together with the Emperor’s decree (Lett. VIII.)., thereby revealing the intensity of your devotion to God in things Divine.  Proof enough, too, of your Apostolic character is what you have now written.  For we have met with what your holiness has written about the Incarnation of our God and Saviour, and have admired the careful diligence of the work378378    This is, of course, the Tome (Lett. XXVIII.)..  For it has proved both points equally well, viz., the Eternal Godhead of the Only-begotten of the Eternal Father, and at the same time His manhood of the seed of Abraham and David, and His assumption of a nature in all things like ours, except in this one thing, that He remained free from all sin:  for sin is engendered not of nature, but of free will379379    Here ‘nature’ must mean ‘man’s original nature before the Fall,’ when it was still in the image of Him who so created it, to which nature Christ’s manhood was a triumphant return.  Otherwise it’s hard to see how Theodoret escapes the pitfall of Pelagianism..  This also was contained in your letter, that the only-begotten Son of God is One and His Godhead impassible, irreversible, unchangeable even as the Father who begat Him and the All-holy Spirit.  And since the Divine nature could not suffer, He took the nature that could suffer to this end, that by the suffering of His own Flesh He might give exemption from suffering to those that believed on Him.  These points, and all that is akin thereto, the letter contained.  And we, admiring your spiritual wisdom, extolled the grace of the Holy Ghost which spoke through you, and ask and pray, and beg and beseech your holiness to come to the rescue of the churches of God that are now tempest tossed.

III.  He complains of Dioscorus’ ill-treatment of himself.

For when we expected a stilling of the waves through those who were sent to Ephesus from your holiness, we have fallen into yet worse storm.  For the most righteous380380    The epithet is shown by the context to be bitterly sarcastic. prelate of Alexandria was not satisfied with the illegal and most unrighteous deposition of the Lord’s most holy and God-loving bishop of Constantinople, Flavian, nor was his wrath appeased by the slaughter of the other bishops likewise.  But me, too, he murdered with his pen in my absence, without calling me to judgment, without passing judgment on me in person, without questioning me on what I hold about the Incarnation of our God and Saviour.  But even murderers, tomb-breakers, and ravishers of other men’s beds, those who sit in judgment do not condemn until they either themselves corroborate the accusations by their confessions, or are clearly convicted by others.  But us, when five and thirty days’ journey distant, he, though brought up on Divine laws, has condemned at his will.  And not now only has he done this, but also last year, after that two persons infected with the Apollinarian disorder had come hither and laid false information against us, he rose up in church and anathematized us, and that when I had written to him and expressed what I hold in a letter.

IV.  This ill-treatment has come after 20 years’ good work in his diocese of Cyrus.

I bemoan the distress of the Church and yearn after its peace.  For having ruled through your prayers the church committed to me by the God of the universe for 20 years, neither in the time of the blessed Theodotus, president of the East, nor in the time of those 57who have succeeded him in the See of Antioch, have I received the slightest blame, but, the Divine Grace working with me, have freed more than 1,000 souls from the disease of Marcion, and have won over many others from the company of Arius and Eunomius to the Master, Christ.  And 800 churches have I had to shepherd:  for that is the number of parishes in Cyrus, in which not a single tare through your prayers has lingered.  But our flock has been freed from every heretical error.  He that sees all things knows how I have been stoned by the ill-famed heretics that have been sent against me, and what struggles I have had in many cities of the East against Greeks, Jews, and every heretical error.  And after all these toils and troubles, I have been condemned without a hearing.

V.  He appeals to the Apostolic See with confidence.

I however await the verdict of your Apostolic See, and beg and pray your Holiness to succour me when I appeal to your upright and just tribunal, and bid me come to you and show that my teaching follows in the track of the Apostles.  For there are writings of mine some 20 years ago, some 18, some 15, and some 12, some again against the Arians and Eunomians, some against the Jews and Greeks some against the Magi in Persia, some also about the universal Providence, others about the nature of God and about the Divine Incarnation.  I have interpreted, through the Divine grace, both the Apostolic writings and the prophetic utterances, and it is easy therefrom to gather whether I have kept unswervingly the standard of the Faith, or have turned aside from its straight path.  And I beg you not to spurn my petition, nor to overlook the insults heaped on my poor white hairs.

VI.  Ought he to acquiesce in his deposition?

First of all, I beg you to tell me, whether I ought to acquiesce in this unrighteous deposition or not.  For I await your verdict and, if you bid me abide by my condemnation, I will abide by it, and will trouble no one hereafter, but await the unerring verdict of our God and Saviour.  I indeed, the Master God is my witness, care nought for honour and glory, but only for the stumbling-block that is put in men’s way:  because many of the simpler folk, and especially those who have been rescued by us from divers heresies, will give credence to those who have condemned us, and perchance reckon us heretics, not being able to discern the exact truth of the dogma, and because, after my long episcopate, I have acquired neither house, nor land, nor obol, nor tomb, only a voluntary poverty, having straightway distributed even what came to me from my fathers after their death, as all know who live in the East.

VII.  Being prevented himself, he has sent delegates to plead his cause.

And before all things I entreat you, holy and God-loved brother, render assistance to my prayers.  These things I have brought to your Holiness’ knowledge, by the most religious and God-beloved presbyters, Hypatius and Abramius the chorepiscopi381381    Chorepiscopi (country bishops) were a kind of suffragan bishop to assist the town bishops in the remoter parts of their diocese.  They continued in use from the end of the 3rd till the 9th century, when they were abolished., and Alypius, superintendent382382    Exarchus. of the monks in our district:  seeing that I was hindered from coming to you myself by the Emperor’s restraining letter, and likewise the others.  And I entreat your holiness both to look on them with fatherly regard, and to lend them your ears in sincere kindness, and also to deem my slandered and falsely attacked position worthy of your protection, and above all to defend with all your might the Faith that is now plotted against, and to keep the heritage of the fathers intact for the churches, so shall your holiness receive from the Bountiful Master a full reward.  (Date about the end of 449.)

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