Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: To Leo, Bishop of Rome.
p. 293 CXIII. To Leo, Bishop of Rome. 1877
If Paul, the herald of the truth, the trumpet of the Holy Ghost, hastened to the great Peter 1878 in order that he might carry from him the desired solution of difficulties to those at Antioch who were in doubt about living in conformity with the law, much more do we, men insignificant and small, hasten to your apostolic see 1879 in order to receive from you a cure for the wounds of the churches. For every reason it is fitting for you to hold the first place, inasmuch as your see is adorned with many privileges. Other cities are indeed adorned by their size, their beauty, and their population; and some which in these respects are lacking are made bright by certain spiritual boons. But on your city the great Provider has bestowed an abundance of good gifts. She is the largest, the most splendid, the most illustrious of the world, and overflows with the multitude of her inhabitants. Besides all this, she has achieved her present sovereignty, and has given her name to her subjects. She is moreover specially adorned by her faith, in due testimony whereof the divine Apostle exclaims “your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.” 1880 And if even after receiving the seeds of the message of salvation her boughs were straightway heavy with these admirable fruits, what words can fitly praise the piety now practised in her? In her keeping too are the tombs that give light to the souls of the faithful, those of our common fathers and teachers of the truth, Peter and Paul. 1881 This thrice blessed and divine pair arose in the region of sunrise, and spread their rays in all directions. Now from the region of sunset, where they willingly welcomed the setting of this life, they illuminate the world. They have rendered your see most glorious; this is the crown and completion 1882 of your good things; but in these days their God has adorned their throne 1883 by setting on it your holiness, emitting, as you do, the rays of orthodoxy. Of this I might give many proofs, but it is enough to mention the zeal which your holiness lately shewed against the ill-famed Manichees, proving thereby your pietys earnest regard for divine things. Your recent writings, too, are enough to indicate your apostolic character. For we have met with what your holiness has written concerning the incarnation 1884 of our God and Saviour, and we have marvelled at the exactness of your expressions.
For both writings agreed in setting forth both the everlasting Godhead of the Only-begotten derived from the everlasting Father, and the manhood derived from the seed of Abraham and David; and that the nature assumed was in all things like unto us, being unlike to us in this respect alone, that it remained free from all sin; since it springs not of nature but of free will.
The letters moreover contain this, that the Only-begotten Son of God is one, and his Godhead impassible, immutable, and invariable, like the Father who begat Him and the Holy Spirit; and that on this account He took the passible nature, divine nature being incapable of suffering, that by the suffering of His own flesh He might bestow freedom from suffering on them that have believed in Him. These statements and others of like nature were contained in your letters. We, in admiration of your spiritual wisdom, have lauded the grace of the Holy Ghost uttered through you, and we invoke and beseech and beg and implore your highness to protect the churches of God that are now assailed by the storm.
We had expected that through the instrumentality of the representatives 1885 sent by your holiness to Ephesus, the tempest p. 294 would have been done away, but we have fallen under severer attacks of the storm. For the very righteous bishop of Alexandria was not content with the illegal and very unrighteous deposition of the most holy and godly bishop of Constantinople, the lord Flavianus, nor was his soul satisfied with a similar slaughter of the rest of the bishops, but me too in my absence he stabbed with a pen, without summoning me to the bar, without trying me in my presence, without questioning me as to my opinions about the incarnation of our God and Saviour. Even murderers, tomb-breakers, and adulterers, are not condemned by their judges until they have themselves confirmed by confession the charges brought against them, or have been clearly convicted by the testimony of others. Yet I, nurtured as I have been in the divine laws, have been condemned by him at his pleasure, when all the while I was five and thirty days march away.
Nor is this all that he has done. Only last year when two fellows tainted with the unsoundness of Apollinarius had gone thither and patched up slanders against me, he stood up in church and anathematized me, and that after I had written to him and explained my opinions to him.
I lament the disturbance of the church, and long for peace. Six and twenty years have I ruled the church entrusted to me by the God of all, aided by your prayers. Never in the time of the blessed Theodotus, 1886 the chief bishop of the East; never in the time of his successors in the see of Antioch, did I incur the slightest blame. By the help of Gods grace working with me more than a thousand souls did I rescue from the plague of Marcion; many others from the Arian and Eunomian factions did I bring over to our Master Christ. I have done pastoral duty in eight hundred churches, for so many parishes does Cyrus contain; and in them, through your prayers, not even one tare is left, and our flock is delivered from all heresy and error. He who sees all things knows how many stones have been cast at me by evil heretics, how many conflicts in most of the cities of the East I have waged against pagans, against Jews, against every heresy. After all this trial and all this danger I have been condemned without a trial.
But I await the sentence of your apostolic see. I beseech and implore your holiness to succour me in my appeal to your fair and righteous tribunal. Bid me hasten to you, and prove to you that my teaching follows the footprints of the apostles. I have in my possession what I wrote twenty years ago; what I wrote eighteen, fifteen, twelve, years ago; against Arians and Eunomians, against Jews and pagans; against the magi in Persia; on divine Providence; on theology; and on the divine incarnation. By Gods grace I have interpreted the writings of the apostles and the oracles of the prophets. From these it is not difficult to ascertain whether I have adhered to the right rule of faith, or have swerved from its straight course. Do not, I implore you, spurn my prayer; regard, I implore you, the insults piled after all my labours on my poor grey head.
Above all, I implore you to tell me whether I ought to put up with this unrighteous deposition or not; for I await your decision. If you bid me abide by the sentence of condemnation, I abide; and henceforth I will trouble no man, and will wait for the righteous tribunal of our God and Saviour. God is my witness, my lord, that I care not for honour and glory. I care only for the scandal that has been caused, in that many of the simpler folk, and especially those whom I have rescued from various heresies, cleaving to the authority of my judges and quite unable to understand the exact truth of the doctrine, will perhaps suppose me guilty of heresy.
All the people of the East know that during all the time of my episcopate I have not acquired a house, not a piece of ground, not an obol, not a tomb, but of my own accord have embraced poverty, after distributing, at the death of my parents, the whole of the property which I inherited from them.
Above all I implore you, O holy sir, beloved of God, to grant me the help of your prayers. I have told you this by the reverend and godly presbyters Hypatius and Abramius chorepiscopi 1887 and by Alypius exarch 1888 of our monks. I would hasten to you myself were I not kept back by the chains of the imperial order, which imprison me as they do others. Treat my messengers, I beseech you, as a father might his sons; give them kindly and unbiassed audience; deign to grant your protection to my old age, 1889 slandered as it is and attacked in vain. Above all, regard, to the utmost of your power, the faith conspired against; preserve for the churches the inheritance of their fathers unp. 295 impaired. So will your holiness receive the recompense due for such deeds from the great Giver of all good gifts. 1890
This celebrated letter may be dated towards the end of 449, allowing time for news to reach Theodoret of his deposition at the Latrocinium on August 11. In 445 Leo had procured the well known decree from Valentinian III, addressed to the famous Aetius in connexion with the dispute with Hilary of Arles, constituting the bishop of Rome the chief authority in the Western Church, basing his demands not so much on the recognised precedence of the imperial see as on the supposed primacy of St. Peter. But in 451, only two years after the date of Theodorets letter the council of Chalcedon (Can. xxviii), after recording the canon (iii) of Constantinople that “the bishop of Constantinople shall have the primacy of honour after the bishop of Rome, because that Constantinople is new Rome,” added “we decree the same things concerning the privileges of Constantinople, which is new Rome. The Fathers formerly gave the primacy to the see of old Rome, because she was the imperial city, and gave like privileges to new Rome, rightly judging that the city which enjoyed like imperial privileges should also be honoured in matters ecclesiastical, being next in rank.” We are yet very far from later claims. Indeed even Gregory the Great when he protested against the title of œcumenical bishop, assumed by John the Faster, did not claim it for himself.293:1878
Paul and Barnabas went up to Jerusalem, not to Peter, but “unto the Apostles and elders.” Acts xv. 2. Peter took a leading part in the discussion, but the “sentence” was pronounced not by Peter, but by James, and the decree was that of “the Apostles and elders with the whole Church.” The slight “wresting” of the scriptures of which Theodoret is guilty is due rather to a desire to compliment an important personage than in anticipation of later controversies.293:1879
Rome was the only apostolic see in the West.293:1880
Rom. i. 8293:1881
The traditional places of sepulture are, of half of each of the holy bodies, the shrine of SS. Peter and Paul in the crypt of St. Peters; of the remaining moiety of St. Peter the Lateran; of St. Paul, St. Paolo fuori le Mura.293:1882
Κολοφών. cf. note on page 262.293:1883
St. Paul is treated as in a sense bishop of Rome. The idea may have some bearing on the hypothesis sometimes adopted, to avoid the difficulties in the early Roman succession, that there was a Gentile line derived from St. Paul, who ordained Linus, and after him Cletus; and that for the Jewish brethren St. Peter ordained Clement.293:1884
His dogmatic epistles and his sermons. He is not known to have written any large treatise.293:1885
Dioscorus presided, and next him sat Julius of Puteoli, who in company with the presbyter Renatus, and the deacon Hilarius (successor to Leo in the papacy) had carried to Flavian the famous “tome” of Leo in June 449. Leo (Epp. XXXII. and XXXIV.) describes his legates as sent “de latere meo.” According to one version of the story Renatus died at Delos on the way out. Labbe IV. 1079.294:1886
Patriarch at Antioch 420–429.294:1887
No word exactly renders the title of these ministers, discharging functions of an episcopal kind, though without high responsibility. They are first mentioned in the Councils of Ancyra and of Neo-Cæsarea and fifteen of them subscribed the decrees of Nicæa.294:1888
Exarch, in its most ordinary ecclesiastical sense nearly equivalent to patriarch, came also to be used of officers charged with the visitation of monasteries.294:1889
If born in 386 (Garnerius), Theodoret would now be 63. Tillemont says 393.295:1890
The tone of this letter, it need hardly be said, is quite inconsistent with the later idea of an “appeal to Rome.” It is “an appeal,” but the appeal of a wronged man for the support, succour, and advice, of a brother bishop of the highest position and character. It does not on the face of it suggest that Leo has any authority to review or alter the sentence of the council. Tillemont (Mém. Ecc. xv. 294) observes that though addressed to Leo in person the appeal is really made to the bishops of the West in council. Leo remonstrated, but Theodosius and his court maintained that the decrees of the Latrocinium must stand.
Next: From Pope Leo to Theodoret.
Like & share St-Takla.org
© Saint Takla Haymanout Website: Coptic Orthodox Church - Alexandria, Egypt / URL: http://St-Takla.org / Contact us at