Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. VIII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Letters.: To the Westerns.
Letter CCXLII. 3030
To the Westerns. 3031
1. The Holy God has promised a happy of issue out of all their infirmities to those that trust in Him. We, therefore, though we have been cut off in a mid-ocean of troubles, though we are tossed by the great waves raised up against us by the spirits of wickedness, nevertheless hold out in Christ Who strengthens us. We have not slackened the strength of our zeal for the Churches, nor, as though despairing of our salvation, while the billows in the tempest rise above our heads, do we look to be destroyed. On the contrary, we are still holding out with all possible earnestness, remembering how even he who was swallowed by the sea monster, because he did not despair of his life, but cried to the Lord, was saved. Thus too we, though we have reached the last pitch of peril, do not give up our hope in God. On every side we see His succour round about us. For these reasons now we turn our eyes to you, right honourable brethren. In many an hour of our affliction we have expected that you would be at our side; and disappointed in that hope we have said to ourselves, “I looked for some to take pity and there was none; and for comforters but I found none.” 3032 Our sufferings are such as to have reached the confines of the empire; and since, when one member suffers, all the members suffer, 3033 it is doubtless right that your pity should be shown to us who have been so long in trouble. For that sympathy, which we have hoped you of your charity feel for us, is caused less by nearness of place than by union of spirit.
2. How comes it to pass then that we have received nothing of what is due to us by the law of love; no letter of consolation, no visit from brethren? This is now the thirteenth year since the war of heresy began against us. 3034 In this the Churches have suffered more tribulations than all those which are on record since Christs gospel was first preached. 3035 I am unwilling to dep. 283 scribe these one by one, lest the feebleness of my narrative should make the evidence of the calamities less convincing. It is moreover the less necessary for me to tell you of them, because you have long known what has happened from the reports which will have reached you. The sum and substance of our troubles is this: the people have left the houses of prayer and are holding congregations in the wildernesses. It is a sad sight. Women, boys, old men, and those who are in other ways infirm, remain in the open air, in heavy rain, in the snow, the gales and the frost of winter as well as in summer under the blazing heat of the sun. All this they are suffering because they refuse to have anything to do with the wicked leaven of Arius.
3. How could mere words give you any clear idea of all this without your being stirred to sympathy by personal experience and the evidence of eyewitnesses? We implore you, therefore, to stretch out a helping hand to those that have already been stricken to the ground, and to send messengers to remind us of the prizes in store for the reward of all who patiently suffer for Christ. A voice that we are used to is naturally less able to comfort us than one which sounds from afar, and that one coming from men who over all the world are known by Gods grace to be among the noblest; for common report everywhere represents you as having remained steadfast, without suffering a wound in your faith, and as having kept the deposit of the apostles inviolate. This is not our case. There are among us some who, through lust of glory and that puffing up which is especially wont to destroy the souls of Christian men, have audaciously uttered certain novelties of expression with the result that the Churches have become like cracked pots and pans and have let in the inrush of heretical impurity. But do you, whom we love and long for, be to us as surgeons for the wounded, as trainers for the whole, healing the limb that is diseased, and anointing the limb that is sound for the service of the true religion.
Placed in 376.282:3031
This and the following letter refer to the earlier of two missions of Dorotheus to the West. In the latter he carried Letter cclxiii. The earlier was successful at least to the extent of winning sympathy. Maran (Vit. Bas. cap. xxxv.) places it not earlier than the Easter of 376, and objects to the earlier date assigned by Tillemont.282:3032
Ps. lxix. 20.282:3033
1 Cor. xii. 26.282:3034
Valens began the thirteenth year of his reign in the March of 376, and this fact is one of Marans reasons for placing this letter where he does. Tillemont reckons the thirteen years from 361 to 374, but Maran points out that if the Easterns had wanted to include the persecution of Constantius they might have gone farther back, while even then the lull under Julian would have broken the continuity of the attack. Vit. Bas. xxxv. cf. note on p. 48.282:3035
A rhetorical expression not to be taken literally. Some of the enormities committed under Valens, e.g. the alleged massacre of the Orthodox delegates off Bithynia in 370 (Soz. vi. 14, Theod. iv. 21), would stand out even when matched with the cruelties perpetrated under Nero and Diocletian, if the evidence for them were satisfactory. cf. Milman, Hist. Christ. iii. 45. The main difference between the earlier persecutions, conventionally reckoned as ten, and the persecution of the Catholics by Valens, seems to be this, that while the former were a putting in force of the law against a religio non licita, the latter was but the occasional result of the personal spite and partizanship of the imperial heretic and his courtiers. Valens would feel bitterly towards a Catholic who thwarted him. Basil could under Diocletian hardly have died in his bed as archbishop of Cæsarea.
Next: To the bishops of Italy and Gaul concerning the condition and confusion of the Churches.
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