Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 12: 32.01.05 Letter XXII-XXVII

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 12: 32.01.05 Letter XXII-XXVII

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 12 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 32.01.05 Letter XXII-XXVII

Other Subjects in this Topic:

Letter XXIIhyperlink . The First from Flavian, Bp. Of Constantinople to Pope Leo.

To the most holy and God-loving father and fellow-bishop, Leo, Flavian greeting in the Lord.

I. The Designs of the Devil Have Led Eutyches Astray.

There is nothing which can stay the devil's wickedness, that "restless evil, full of deadly poisonhyperlink ." Above and below it "goes about," seeking "whom it may" strike, dismay, and "devourhyperlink ." Whence to watch, to be sober unto prayer, to draw near to God, to eschew foolish questionings, to follow the fathers and not to go beyond the eternal bounds, this we have learnt from Holy Writ. And so I give up the excess of grief and abundant tears over the capture of one of the clergy who are under me, and whom I could not save nor snatch from the wolf, although I was ready to lay down my life for him. How was he caught, how did he leap away, hating the voice of the caller and turning aside also from the memory of the Fathers and thoroughly detesting their paths. And thus I proceed with my account.

II. The Seductions of Heretics Capture the Unwary.

There are some "in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolveshyperlink :" whom we know by their fruit. These men seem indeed at first to be of us, but they are not of us: "for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with ushyperlink ." But when they have spewed out their impiety, throwing out the guile that is in them, and seizing the weaker ones, and those who have their senses unpractised in the divine utterances, they carry them along with themselves to destruction, wresting and doing despite to the Fathers' doctrines, just as they do the Holy Scriptures also to their own destruction: whom we must be forewarned of and take heed lest some should be misled by their wickedness and shaken in their firmness. "For they have sharpened their tongues like serpents: adder's poison is under their lipshyperlink ," as the prophet has cried out about them.

III. Eutyches' Heresy Stated.

Such a one, therefore, has now shown himself amongst us, Eutyches, for many years a presbyter and archimandritehyperlink , pretending to hold the same belief as ours, and to have the right Faith in him: indeed he resists the blasphemy of Nestorius, and feigns a controversy with him, but the exposition of the Faith composed by the 318 holy fathers, and the letter that Cyril of holy memory wrote to Nestorius, and one by the same author on the same subject to the Easterns, these writings, to which all have given their assent, he has tried to upset, and revive the old evil dogmas of the blasphemous Valentinus and Apollinaris. He has not feared the warning of the True King: "Whoso shall cause one of the least of these little ones to stumble, it was better that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the seahyperlink " But casting away all shame, and shaking off the cloak which covered his errorhyperlink , he openly in our holy synod persisted in saying that our Lord Jesus Christ ought not to be understood by us as having two natures after His incarnation in one substance and in one person: nor yet that the Lord's flesh was of the same substance with us, as if assumed from us and united to God the Word hypostatically: but he said that the Virgin who bare him was indeed of the same substance with us according to the flesh, but the Lord Himself did not assume from her flesh of the same substance with us: but the Lord's body was not a man's body, although that which issued from the Virgin was a human body. resisting all the expositions of the holy Fathers.

IV. He Has Sent Leo the Minutes of Their Proceedings that He May See All the Details.

But not to make my letter too long by detailing everything, we have sent your holiness the proceedings which some time since we took in the matter: therein we deprived him as convicted on these charges, of his priesthood, of the management of his monastery and of our communion: in order that your holiness also knowing the facts of his case may make his wickedness manifest to all the God-loving bishops who are under your reverence; lest perchance if they do not know the views which he holds, and of which he has been openly convicted, they may be found to be in correspondence with him as a fellow-believer by letter or by other means. I and those who are with me give much greeting to you and to all the brotherhood in Christ. The Lord keep you in safety and prayer for us, O most God-Loving Fatherhyperlink


1 There are two Latin versions of the original Gk. of this letter, an older and later: the later, as being more accurate, is here translated, though Canon Bright would seem to be right (n. 139) in saying that we must think of Leo as writing the Tome (Lett. XXVIII.) with the older Latin version of Flavian's letter before him.'

2 S.Jam iii.8.

3 S. 1 Pet.v.8.

4 S. Matt. vii. 15.

5 S. John ii. 19.

6 Ps. cxl. 3.

7 Viz., head of a monastery (Gk. ma/ndra) or abbot.

8 S. Matt. xviii, 6, but it will be noticed that the quotation is confused with xxv. 40, minimis being substituted for qui in me credunt.

9 Pudorem (instead of the impudenter of the mss.) omnem abiciens et pellem quoe eum circumdabat excutiens, the Gk. version of this somewhat obscure passage running ai0dw= pa=san a0pobalw\n kai\ h@n perie/keito th=j pla/nj dora\n a0potinaca/menoj .

10 This was the letter "which was somewhat unaccountably delayed in its transit to Rome" (Bright), which reached Leo after XXIII. was written, and to which Leo refers in the Tome, chap. i., litteris, quas miramur fuisse tam seras. Bright's note 139 should be read throughout as a clear exposition of the preliminary steps in the controversy.

Letter XXIII. To Flavian, Bishop of Constantinople.

To his well-beloved brother Flavian the bishop, Leo the bishop.

I. He Complains that Flavian Has Not Sent Him a Full Account of Eutyches' Case.

Seeing that our most Christian and merciful Emperor, in his holy and praiseworthy faith and anxiety for the peace of the Catholic Church, has sent us a letterhyperlink upon the matters which have roused the din of disturbance among you, we wonder, brother, that you have been able to keep silence to us upon the scandal that has been caused, and that you did not rather take measures for our being at once informed by your own report, that we might not have any doubt about the truth of the case. For we have received a document from the presbyter Eutycheshyperlink , who complains that on the accusation of bishop Eusebius he has been wrongfully deprived of communion, notwithstanding that he says he attended your summons and did not refuse his presence: and moreover asserts that he presented a deed of appeal in the very court, which was however not accepted: whereupon he was forced to put forth letters of defencehyperlink in the city of Constantinople. Pending which matter we do not yet know with what justice he has been separated from the communion of the Church. But having regard to the importance of the matter, we wish to know the reason of your action and to have the whole thing brought to our knowledge: for we, who desire the judgments of the Lord's priests to be deliberate, cannot without information decide one way or another, until we have all the proceedings accurately before us.

II. And Now Demands It.

And therefore, brother, signify to us in a full account by the hand of the most fit and competent person, what innovation has arisen against the ancient faith, which needed to be corrected by so severe a sentence. For both the moderation of the Church and the devout faith of our most godly prince insist upon our showing much anxiety for the peace of Christendom: that dissensions may be cleared away and the Catholic Faith kept unimpaired, and that those whose faith has been proved may be fortified by our authority, when those who maintain what is wrong have been recalled from their error. And no difficulty can arise on this side, since the said presbyter has professed himself by his own statement, ready to be corrected if anything be found in him worthy of rebuke. For it beseems us in such matters to take every precaution that charity be kept and the Truth defended without the din of strife. And therefore because you see, beloved, that we are anxious about so great a matter, hasten to inform us of everything in as full and clear a manner as possible (for this ought to have been done before), lest in the cross-statements of both sides we be misled by some uncertainty, and the dissension, which ought to be stifled in its infancy, be fostered for our heart is impressed by God's inspiration with the need of saving from violation by anyone's misinterpretation those constitutions of the venerable fathers which have received Divine ratification and belong to the groundwork of the Faith. God keep thee safe, dear brother. Dated 18 February (449), in the consulship of the illustrious Asturius and Protogenes.


1 This letter from Theodosius II. came soon after Eutyches, letter (XXI), and "apparently gave Leo the impression, that Eutyches had been badly treated." Bright.

2 See Letter XXI., above.

3 contestatorios libellos. See Lett. XXI., chap. ii.

Letter XXIV. To Theodosius Augustus II.

Leo the bishop, to Theodosius Augustus.

I. He Praises the Emperor's Piety and Mentions Eutyches' Appeal.

How much protection the Lord has vouchsafed His Church through your clemency and faith, is shown again by this letter which you have sent me: so that we rejoice at there being not only a kingly, but also a priestly mind within you. Seeing that, besides your imperial and public cares, you have a most devout anxiety for the Christian religion, lest schisms or heresies or other offences should grow up among God's people. For your realm is then in its best state when men serve the eternal and unchangeable Trinity by the confession of one Godheadhyperlink . What the disturbance was which occurred in the Church of Constantinople, and which could have so moved my brother and fellow-bishop Flavian, that he deprived Eutyches, the presbyter, of communion, I have not yet been able to understand clearly. For although the aforesaid presbyter sent in writing a complaint concerning his trouble to the Apostolic See, yet he only briefly touched on some points, asserting that he kept the constitutions of the Nicene synod and had been vainly blamed for difference of faith.

II. He Finds Fault with Flavian's Silence.

But the statement of bishop Eusebius, his accuser, copies of which the said presbyter has sent us, contained nothing clear about his objections, and though he charged a presbyter with heresy, he did not say expressly what opinion he disapproved of in him: although the bishop himself also professed that he adhered to the decrees of the Nicene synod: for which reason we had no means of learning anything more fully. And because the method of our Faith and the laudable anxiety shown by your piety requires the merits of the case to be known, there must now be no place allowed for deception, but we must be informed of the points on which he considers him unsound, that the right judgment may be passed after full information. I have sent a letter to the aforesaid bishop, from which he may gather that I am displeased at his still keeping silence upon what has been done in so grave a matter, when he ought to have been forward in disclosing all to us at the outset: and we believe that even after the reminder he will acquaint us with the whole, in order that, when what now seems obscure, has been brought into the light, judgment may be passed agreeably to the teaching of the Gospels and the Apostles. Dated the 18th of Februaryhyperlink , in the consulship of the illustrious Asturius and Protogenes (449).


1 Is it fanciful to trace an analogy between these words and the language of the Collect for Trinity Sunday (out of the Sacramentary of Gregory), "grace by the confession of a true faith to acknowledge the glory of the Eternal Trinity, and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the Unity ?"

2 Quesnel reads the 1st of March as the date.

Letter XXV. From Peter Chrysologus, Bishop of Ravenna, to Eutyches, the Presbyter.

[In answer to a letter from Eutyches, he urges him to accept the decisions of the Church on the Faith in fear and without too close inquiry, and to abide by the ruling of the bishop of Rome.]

Letter XXVIhyperlink . A Second One from Flavian to Leo.

To the most holy and blessed father and fellow-minister Leo, Flavian greeting in the Lord.

I. Eutyches' Heresy Restated.

Nothing, as you know, most beloved of God, is more precious to priests than piety and he right dividing of the word of truth. For all our hope and safety, and the recompense of promised good depend thereon. For this reason we must take all pains about the true Faith, and those things which have been set forth and decreed by the holy Fathers, that always, and in all circumstances, they may be kept and guarded whole and uninjured. And so it was necessary on the present occasion for us, who see the orthodox Faith suffering harm, and the heresy of Apollinaris and Valentinus being revived by the wicked monk Eutyches, not to overlook it, but publicly to disclose it for the people's safety. For this man: this Eutyches, keeping his diseased and sickly opinion hid within him, has dared to attack our gentleness, and unblushingly and shamelessly to instil his own blasphemy into many minds: saying that before the Incarnation indeed, our Saviour Jesus Christ had two natures, Godhead and manhood: but that after the union they became one nature not knowinghyperlink what he says, or on what he is speaking so decidedly. For even the union of the two natures that came together in Christ did not, as your piety knows, confuse their properties in the process: but the properties of the two natures remain entire even in the union. And he added another blasphemy also, saying that the Lord's body which sprang from Mary was not of our substance, nor of human matter: but, though he calls it human, he refuses to say it was con-substantial with us or with her who bare him, according to the fleshhyperlink .

II. The Means Eutyches Has Taken to Circumvent the Synod.

And this notwithstanding that the acts of Ephesushyperlink , in the letter written by the holy and ecumenical synod to the wicked and deposed Nestorius, contain these express words "the natures which came together to form true unity are indeed different: and yet from then both there is but one Christ and Son. Not as if the difference between the two natures was done away with through the union, but rather that these same natures, His Godhead and His Manhood perfected for us one Lord Jesus Christ, through an ineffable and incomprehensible meeting which resulted in unity." And this does not escape your holiness, who have no doubt read the record of what was done at Ephesus. Yet this same Eutyches attaching no weight to these words, thinks he is not liable to the penalties fixed by that holy and ecumenical synod. For this reason, finding that many of the simpler-minded folk were injured in their faith by his contention, upon his being accused by the devout Bishop Eusebius, and upon his attending at the holy council, and with his own mouth declaring what he thought to the members of the synod, we have deposed him for his estrangement from the true Faith, as your holiness will learn from the resolutions passed about him: which we have sent with this our letter. Moreover, it is fair in my opinion that you should be told this also that this same Eutyches, after suffering just and canonical deposition, instead of making amends for his earlier by his later conducthyperlink , and appeasing God by careful penitence and many tears, and by a true repentance, comforting our heart which was greatly saddened at his fall: not only did not do so, but even made every effort to throw the most holy church of this place into confusion: setting up in public placards full of insults and maledictions, and beyond this addressing his entreaties to our most religious and Christ-loving Emperor, and these too over-flowing with arrogance and sauciness, whereby he tried to override the divine canons in everything.

III. He Acknowledges the Receipt of Leo's Letter.

But after all this had occurred, your holiness' letter was conveyed to us by the most honourable count Pansophius: and from it we learnt that the same Eutyches had sent you a letter full of falsehood and cunning, saying that at the time of trial he had presented letters of appeal to us, and to the holy synod of bishops who were then present, and had appealed to your holiness: this he certainly never did, but in this matter, too, he has been guilty of deceit, like the father of lies, thinking to gain your ear. Therefore, most holy father, being stirred by all that he has ventured, and by what has been done, and is being done against us and the most holy Church, use your accustomed promptitude as becomes the priesthood, and in defending the commonweal and peace of the holy churches, consent by your own letterhyperlink to endorse the resolution that has been canonically passed against him, and to confirm the faith of our most religious and Christ-loving Emperor. For the matter only requires your weight and support, which through your wisdom will at once bring about general peace and quietness. For thus both the heresy which has arisen, and the disorder it has excited, will easily be appeased by God's assistance through a letter from you: and the rumoured synod will also be prevented, and so the most holy churches throughout the world need not be disturbed. I and all that are with me salute all the brethren that are with you. May you be granted to us safe in the Lord, and still praying for us, O most God-Loving and Holy Father.


1 In reading the Tome (Lett. XXVIII.) the reader is warned to remember that he must take no account of this letter, which did not reach Leo until later, and which is Acknowledged in Lett. XXXVI. dated a week after the Tome. Bright (n. 139). There are two versions of this letter also, the ancient one and a modern one by Joannes Cotelerius, which latter, as being a more exact reproduction of the Gk. original, we have taken as the basis of our English translation.

2 Ignarus: it will be remembered that in the Tome (chap. i.) this is the chief fault which Leo aIso has to find with Eutyches, calling him multum imprudens et nimis imperitis, &c.

3 So in Lett. XXII., chap. iii., Domini corpus non esse quidem corpus hominis, humanum autem corpus esse quod ex Virgine est.

4 The date of this Council is 431 b.c.

5 Saltem secundis curare priora (Gk. ka/n toij= deute/roj i0a/sasqai ta\ pro/tera ).

6 Cf Lett. XXVII., n. 7, where the difference between Flavian's request here and in Lett. XXII., chap iv., is pointed out.

Letter XXVII. To Flavian, Bishop of Constantinople.

Leo to Flavian, bishop of Constantinople. An acknowledgment of Flavian's first letter and a promise of a fuller reply.

On the first opportunity we could find, which was the coming of our honourable son Rodanus, we acknowledge, beloved, the arrival of your packethyperlink , which was to give us information about the case which has been stirred up to our grief among you by misguided error. Since this man, who has long seemed to be religiously disposed, has expressed himself in the Faith otherwise than is right, though he never ought to have departed from the catholic tradition, but to have persevered in the same belief as is held by all. But on this matter we are replying more fullyhyperlink by him who brought your letter to us, beloved: that we may give you all necessary instructions, beloved, on the whole matter. For we do not allow either him to persist in his perverse conviction; or you, beloved, who with such faithful zeal are resisting his wrong and foolish error to be long disturbed by the adversary's opposition. Our aforesaid son, by whom we are sending this letter, we desire you to receive with the affection he deserves, and to reply when he returns to us. Dated 21st May in the consulship of Asturius and Protogenes (449).


1 Epistolas. This refers to Lett. XXII., and includes the gesta (or minutes of the synod's proceedings) which accompanied it.

2 This is the Tome (Letter XXVIII.): it will be noticed that Flavian (in Lett. XXII.) had not asked for any instructions, but only that Leo should inform the bishops under his jurisdiction of Eutyches' deposition (chap. iv.). Flavian's second letter (XXVI.), however, does mention vestras sacras litteras, which he hopes will avoid the necessity of a council (chap. iii.). Leo himself seems to be conscious of this: for in Letter XXXIII., chap. 2, he twice pointedly puts in the word "seems," as if Flavian had not expressed himself quite clearly: "the points which he seems to have referred to us," and "this error which ,seems to have arisen."