Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Letter of Theodoretus, as some suppose, to Domnus, Bishop of Antioch, written on the Death of Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria.
CLXXX. Letter of Theodoretus, as some suppose, to Domnus, Bishop of Antioch, written on the Death of Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria. 2312
At last and with difficulty the villain has gone. The good and the gentle pass away all too soon; the bad prolong their life for years.
The Giver of all good, methinks, removes the former before their time from the troubles of humanity; He frees them like victors from their contests and transports them to the better life, that life which, free from death, sorrow and care, is the prize of them that contend for virtue. They, on the other hand, who love and practise wickedness are allowed p. 347 a little longer to enjoy this present life, either that sated with evil they may afterwards learn virtues lessons, or else even in this life may pay the penalty for the wickedness of their own ways by being tossed to and fro through many years of this lifes sad and wicked waves.
This wretch, however, has not been dismissed by the ruler of our souls like other men, that he may possess for longer time the things which seem to be full of joy. Knowing that the fellows malice has been daily growing and doing harm to the body of the Church, the Lord has lopped him off like a plague and “taken away the reproach from Israel.” 2313 His survivors are indeed delighted at his departure. The dead, maybe, are sorry. There is some ground of alarm lest they should be so much annoyed at his company as to send him back to us, or that he should run away from his conductors like the tyrant of Cyniscus in Lucian. 2314
Great care must then be taken, and it is especially your holinesss business to undertake this duty, to tell the guild of undertakers to lay a very big and heavy stone upon his grave, for fear he should come back again, and show his changeable mind once more. Let him take his new doctrines to the shades below, and preach to them all day and all night. We are not at all afraid of his dividing them by making public addresses against true religion and by investing an immortal nature with death. He will be stoned not only by ghosts learned in divine law, but also by Nimrod, Pharaoh and Sennacherib, or any other of Gods enemies.
But I am wasting words. The poor fellow is silent whether he will or no, “his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish.” 2315 He is doomed too to silence of another kind. His deeds, detected, tie his tongue, gag his mouth, curb his passion, strike him dumb and make him bow down to the ground.
I really am sorry for the poor fellow. Truly the news of his death has not caused me unmixed delight, but it is tempered by sadness. On seeing the Church freed from a plague of this kind I am glad and rejoice; but I am sorry and do mourn when I think that the wretch knew no rest from his crimes, but went on attempting greater and more grievous ones till he died. His idea was, so it is said, to throw the imperial city into confusion by attacking true doctrines a second time, and to charge your holiness with supporting them. But God saw and did not overlook it. “He put his hook into his nose and his bridle into his lips,” 2316 and turned him to the earth whence he was taken. Be it then granted to your holinesss prayers that he may obtain mercy and pity and that Gods boundless clemency may surpass his wickedness. I beg your holiness to drive away the agitations of my soul. Many different reports are being bruited abroad to my alarm announcing general misfortunes. It is even said by some that your reverence is setting out against your will for the court, but so far I have despised these reports as untrue. But finding every one repeating one and the same story I have thought it right to try and learn the truth from your holiness that I may laugh at these tales if false, or sorrow not without reason if they are true.
This letter is inserted in the Act. Synod. (vide Mans. ix. 295) as addressed to John, but Garnerius, with general acceptance, has substituted Domnus. Its genuineness was contested by Baronius (an. vi. 23) not only on the ground of its ascription to John who predeceased Cyril four years; but also because its expressions are at once too Nestorian in doctrine and too extreme in bitterness to have been penned by Theodoret. Garnerius is of opinion that the extreme Nestorianism and bitterness of feeling are no arguments against the authorship of Theodoret; and, as we have already had occasion to notice, our author can on occasion use very strong language, as for instance in Letter CL. p. 324, where he alludes to Cyril as a shepherd not only plague smitten himself but doing his best to inflict more damage on his flock than that caused by beast of prey, by infecting his charge with his disease.
“It must be needless to add that Cyrils character is not to be estimated aright by ascribing any serious value to a coarse and ferocious invective against his memory, which was quoted as Theodorets in the fifth General Council (Theodor. Ep. 180; see Tillemont, xiv. 784). If it were indeed the production of the pen of Theodoret, the reputation which would suffer from it would assuredly be his own.” Canon Bright. Dict. Christ. Biog. I.
“The long and bitter controversy in which both parties did and said many things they must have had cause deeply to regret, was closed by the death of Cyril, June 9, or 27, 444. With Baronius, the cautious Tillemont, Cardinal Newman and Dr. Bright, we should be glad to utterly scout the idea, that the atrocious letter on Cyrils death ascribed to Theodoret by the Fifth Œcumenical Council (Theod. ed. Schulze, Ep. 180; Labbe, v. 507) which he was said to have delivered by way of pæan (Bright u. s. 176) and the scarcely less scandalous sermon (ib.) can have been written by him. To treat it as genuine would be to vilify Theodoret. The Fathers of the Council writes Dr. Newman are no authority on such a matter (Hist. Sketches p. 359). A painful suspicion of their genuineness, however, still lingers and troubles our conception of Theodoret. The documents may have been garbled, but the general tone too much resembles that of undisputed polemical writings of Theodorets to allow us entirely to repudiate them. We wish we could. Neander (vol. iv. p. 13, note, Clarks tr.) is inclined to accept the genuineness of the letter, the arguments against which he does not regard as carrying conviction, and to a large extent deriving their weight from Tillemonts Catholic standpoint. That Theodoret should speak in this manner of Cyrils character and death cannot, he thinks, appear surprising to those who, without prejudice, contemplate Cyril and his relations to Theodoret. The playful description, after the manner of Lucian, of a voyage to the Shades below, is not to be reckoned a very sharp thing even in Theodoret. The advice to put a heavy stone over his grave to keep Cyril down is sufficient proof that the whole is a bitter jest. The world felt freer now Cyril was gone; and he does not shrink from telling a friend that he could well spare him. The exaggeration of rhetorical polemics requires many grains of allowance.” Canon Venables. Dict. Christ. Biog. iv.347:2313
1 Sam. xvii. 26347:2314
Lucian. “Cataplus sive Tyrannus.”
Cyniscus and Megapenthes come to the shore of Styx in the same batch of ghosts.
Megapenthes begs hard of Clotho to let him go back again, but Cyniscus the philosopher, who professes great delight at having died at last, refuses to get into the boat. “No; by Zeus, not till we have bound this fellow here, and set him on board, for I am afraid he will get over you by his entreaties.”347:2315
Ps. cxlvi. 4347:2316
Isaiah xxxvii. 29
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