Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Second Ecumenical Council: The First Council of Constantinople.: The Synodical Letter.
p. 188 Council of Constantinople.
The Synodical Letter. 238
To the right honourable lords our right reverend brethren and colleagues, Damasus, Ambrosius, Britton, Valerianus, Ascholius, Anemius, Basilius and the rest of the holy bishops assembled in the great city of Rome, the holy synod of the orthodox bishops assembled at the great city of Constantinople sends greeting in the Lord.
To recount all the sufferings inflicted on us by the power of the Arians, and to attempt to give information to your reverences, as though you were not already well acquainted with them, might seem superfluous. For we do not suppose your piety to hold what is befalling us as of such secondary importance as that you stand in any need of information on matters which cannot but evoke your sympathy. Nor indeed were the storms which beset us such as to escape notice from their insignificance. Our persecutions are but of yesterday. The sound of them still rings in the ears alike of those who suffered them and of those whose love made the sufferers pain their own. It was but a day or two ago, so to speak, that some released from chains in foreign lands returned to their own churches through manifold afflictions; of others who had died in exile the relics were brought home; others again, even after their return from exile, found the passion of the heretics still at the boiling heat, and, slain by them with stones as was the blessed Stephen, met with a sadder fate in their own than in a strangers land. Others, worn away with various cruelties, still bear in their bodies the scars of their wounds and the marks of Christ. Who could tell the tale of fines, of disfranchisements, of individual confiscations, of intrigues, of outrages, of prisons? In truth all kinds of tribulation were wrought out beyond number in us, perhaps because we were paying the penalty of sins, perhaps because the merciful God was trying us by means of the multitude of our sufferings. For these all thanks to God, who by means of such afflictions trained his servants and, according to the multitude of his mercies, brought us again to refreshment. We indeed needed long leisure, time, and toil to restore the church once more, that so, like physicians healing the body after long sickness and expelling its disease by gradual treatment, we might bring her back to her ancient health of true religion. It is true that on the whole we seem to have been delivered from the violence of our persecutions and to be just now recovering the churches which have for a long time been the prey of the heretics. But wolves are troublesome to us who, though they have been driven from the fold, yet harry the flock up and down the glades, daring to hold rival assemblies, stirring seditious among the people, and shrinking from nothing which can do damage to the churches. So, as we have already said, we needs must labour all the longer. Since, however, you showed your brotherly love to us by inviting us (as though we were your own members) by the letters of our most religious emperor to the synod which you are gathering by divine permission at Rome, to the end that since we alone were then condemned to suffer persecution, you should not now, when our emperors are at one with us as to true religion, reign apart from us, but that we, to use the Apostles phrase, should reign with you, our prayer was, if it were possible, all in company to leave our churches, and rather gratify our longing to see you than consult their needs. For who will give us wings as of a dove, and we will fly and be at rest? But this course seemed likely to leave the churches who were just recovering quite undefended, and the undertaking was to most of us impossible, for, in accordance witch the letters sent a year ago from your holiness after the synod at Aquileia to the most pious emperor Theodosius, we had journeyed to Constantinople, equipped only for travelling p. 189 so far as Constantinople, and bringing the consent of the bishops remaining in the provinces of this synod alone. We had been in no expectation of any longer journey nor had heard a word about it, before our arrival at Constantinople. In addition to all this, and on account of the narrow limits of the appointed time which allowed of no preparation for a longer journey, nor of communicating with the bishops of our communion in the provinces and of obtaining their consent, the journey to Rome was for the majority impossible. We have therefore adopted the next best course open to us under the circumstances, both for the better administration of the church, and for manifesting our love towards you, by strongly urging our most venerated, and honoured colleagues and brother bishops Cyriacus, Eusebius and Priscianus, to consent to travel to you.
Through them we wish to make it plain that our disposition is all for peace with unity for its sole object, and that we are full of zeal for the right faith. For we, whether we suffered persecutions, or afflictions, or the threats of emperors, or the cruelties of princes, or any other trial at the hands of heretics, have undergone all for the sake of the evangelic faith, ratified by the three hundred and eighteen fathers at Nicæa in Bithynia. This is the faith which ought to be sufficient for you, for us, for all who wrest not the word of the true faith; for it is the ancient faith; it is the faith of our baptism; it is the faith that teaches us to believe in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. According to this faith there is one Godhead, Power and Substance of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; the dignity being equal, and the majesty being equal in three perfect hypostases, i.e. three perfect persons. Thus there is no room for the heresy of Sabellius by the confusion of the hypostases, i.e. the destruction of the personalities; thus the blasphemy of the Eunomians, of the Arians, and of the Pneumatomachi is nullified, which divides the substance, the nature, and the godhead, and super-induces on the uncreated consubstantial and co-eternal Trinity a nature posterior, created and of a different substance. We moreover preserve unperverted the doctrine of the incarnation of the Lord, holding the tradition that the dispensation of the flesh is neither soulless nor mindless nor imperfect; and knowing full well that Gods Word was perfect before the ages, and became perfect man in the last days for our salvation.
Let this suffice for a summary of the doctrine which is fearlessly and frankly preached by us, and concerning which you will be able to be still further satisfied if you will deign to read the tome of the synod of Antioch, and also that tome issued last year by the Ecumenical Council held at Constantinople, in which we have set forth our confession of the faith at greater length, and have appended an anathema against the heresies which innovators have recently inscribed.
Now as to the particular administration of individual churches, an ancient custom, as you know, has obtained, confirmed by the enactment of the holy fathers of Nicæa, that in every province, the bishops of the province, and, with their consent, the neighbouring bishops with them, should perform ordinations as expediency may require. In conforming with these customs note that other churches have been administered by us and the priests of the most famous churches publicly appointed. Accordingly over the new made (if the expression be allowable) church at Constantinople, which, as through from a lions mouth, we have lately snatched by Gods mercy from the blasphemy of the heretics, we have ordained bishop the right reverend and most religious Nectarius, in the presence of the Ecumenical Council, with common consent, before the most religious emperor Theodosius, and with the assent of all the clergy and of the whole city. And over the most ancient and truly apostolic church in Syria, where first the noble name of Christians was given them, the bishops of the province and of the eastern diocese have met together and canonically ordained bishop the right reverend and most religious Flavianus, with the consent of all the church, who as though with one voice joined in expressing their respect for him. This rightful ordination also received the sanction of the General Council. Of the church at Jerusalem, mother of all the churches, we make known that the right reverend and most religious Cyril is bishop, who was some time ago canonically ordained by the bishops of the province, and has in several places fought a good fight against the Arians. We beseech your reverence to rejoice at what has thus been rightly and canonically settled by us, by the intervention of spiritual love and by the influence of the fear of the p. 190 Lord, compelling the feelings of men, and making the edification of churches of more importance than individual grace or favour. Thus since among us there is agreement in the faith and Christian charity has been established, we shall cease to use the phrase condemned by the apostles, I am of Paul and I of Apollos and I of Cephas, and all appearing as Christs, who in us is not divided, by Gods grace we will keep the body of the church unrent, and will boldly stand at the judgment seat of the Lord.
Found in Theod., H. E. v. 9. The reader is warned against inaccurate translations of the dogmatic portions.
Next: The Third Ecumenical Council: The Council of Ephesus.
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