Letter LXX. 2251
Without address. 2252
To renew laws of ancient love, and once again to restore to vigorous life that heavenly and saving gift of Christ which in course of time has withered away, the peace, I mean, of the Fathers, is a labour necessary indeed and profitable to me, but pleasant too, as I am sure it will seem to your Christ-loving disposition. For what could be more delightful than to behold all, who are separated by distances so vast, bound together by the union effected by love into one harmony of members in Christs body? Nearly all the East (I include under this name all the regions from Illyricum to Egypt) is being agitated, right honourable father, by a terrible storm and tempest. The old heresy, sown by Arius the enemy of the truth, has now boldly and unblushingly reappeared. Like some sour root, it is producing its deadly fruit and is prevailing. The reason of this is, that in every district the champions of right doctrine have been exiled from their Churches by calumny and outrage, and the control of affairs has been handed over to men who are leading captive the souls of the simpler brethren. I have looked upon the visit of your mercifulness as the only possible solution of our difficulties. Ever in the past I have been consoled by your extraordinary affection; and for a short time my heart was cheered by the gratifying report that we shall be visited by you. But, as I was disappointed, I have been constrained to beseech you by letter to be moved to help us, and to send some of those, who are like minded with us, either to conciliate the dissentient and bring back the Churches of God into friendly union, or at all events to make you see more plainly who are responsible for the unsettled state in which we are, that it may be obvious to you for the future with whom it befits you to be in communion. In this I am by no means making any novel request, but am only asking what has been customary in the case of men who, before our own day, were blessed and dear to God, and conspicuously in your own case. For I well remember learning from the answers made by our fathers when asked, and from documents still preserved among us, that the illustrious and blessed bishop Dionysius, conspicuous in your see as well for soundness of faith as for all other virtues, visited by letter my Church of Cæsarea, and by letter exhorted our fathers, and sent men to ransom our brethren from captivity. 2253 But now our condition is yet more painful and gloomy and needs more careful treatment. We are lamenting no mere overthrow of earthly buildings, but the capture of Churches; what we see p. 167 before us is no mere bodily slavery, but a carrying away of souls into captivity, perpetrated day by day by the champions of heresy. Should you not, even now, be moved to succour us, ere long all will have fallen under the dominion of the heresy, and you will find none left to whom you may hold out your hand.
The Ben. Ed. points out that what is related by Basil, of the kindness of the bishops of Rome to other churches, is confirmed by the evidence both of Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (cf. Eusebius, Hist. Ecc. iv. 23), of Dionysius of Alexandria (Dionysius to Sixtus II. Apud Euseb., Ecc. Hist. vii. 5), and of Eusebius himself who in his history speaks of the practice having been continued down to the persecution in his own day. The troubles referred to by Basil took place in the time of Gallienus, when the Scythians ravaged Cappadocia and the neighbouring countries. (cf. Sozomen, ii. 6.) Dionysius succeeded Sixtus II. at Rome in 259.
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