Early Church Fathers
Extracts from the Acts. Session I.
(Labbe and Cossart, Concilia, Tom. V., col. 419.)
[The Emperor's Letter which was read to the Fathers.]
In the Name of our Lord God Jesus Christ. The Emperor Flavius Justinian, German, Gothic, etc., and always Augustus, to the most blessed bishops and patriarchs, Eutychius of Constantinople, Apollinarius of Alexandria, Domninus of Theopolis, Stephen, George, and Damian, the most religious bishops taking the place of that man of singular blessedness, Eustochius, the Archbishop and Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the other most religious bishops stopping in this royal city from the different provinces.
[The following is the letter condensed, including Hefele's digest. History of the Councils, Vol. IV., p. 298.]
The effort of my predecessors, the orthodox Emperors, ever aimed at the settling of controversies which had arisen respecting the faith by the calling of Synods. For this cause Constantine assembled 318 Fathers at Nice, and was himself present at the Council, and assisted those who confessed the Son to be consubstantial with the Father. Theodosius, 150 at Constantinople, Theodosius the younger, the Synod of Ephesus, the Emperor Marcian, the bishops at Chalcedon. As, however, after Marcian's death, controversies respecting the Synod of Chalcedon had broken out in several places, the Emperor Leo wrote to all bishops of all places, in order that everyone might declare his opinion in writing with regard to this holy Council. Soon afterwards, however, had arisen again the adherents of Nestorius and Eutyches, and caused great divisions, so that many Churches had broken off communion with one another. When, now, the grace of God raised us to the throne, we regarded it as our chief business to unite the Churches again, and to bring the Synod of Chalcedon, together with the three earlier, to universal acceptance. We have won many who previously opposed that Synod; others, who persevered in their opposition, we banished, and so restored the unity of the Church again. But the Nestorians want to impose their heresy upon the Church; and, as they could not use Nestorius for that purpose, they made haste to introduce their errors through Theodore of Mopsuestia, the teacher of Nestorius, who taught still more grievous blasphemies than his. He maintained, e.g., that God the Word was one, and Christ another. For the same purpose they made use of those impious writings of Theodoret which were directed against the first Synod of Ephesus, against Cyril and his Twelve Chapters, and also the shameful letter which Ibas is said to have written. They maintain that this letter was accepted by the Synod of Chalcedon, and so would free from condemnation Nestorius and Theodore who were commended in the letter. If they were to succeed, the Logos could no longer be said to be "made man," nor Mary called the Mother (genetrix) of God. We, therefore, following the holy Fathers, have first asked you in writing to give your judgment on the three impious chapters named, and you have answered, and have joyfully confessed the true faith. Because, however, after the condemnation proceeding from you, there are still some who defend the Three Chapters, therefore we have summoned you to the capital, that you may here, in common assembly, place again your view in the light of day. When, for example, Vigilius, Pope of Old Rome, came hither, he, in answer to our questions, repeatedly anathematised in writing the Three Chapters, and confirmed his steadfastness in this view by much, even by the condemnation of his deacons, Rusticus and Sebastian. We possess still his declarations in his own hand. Then he issued his Judicatum, in which he anathematised the Three Chapters, with the words, Et quoniam, etc. You know that he not only deposed Rusti- cus and Sebastian because they defended the Three Chapters, but also wrote to Valentinian, bishop of Scythia, and Aurelian, bishop of Aries, that nothing might be undertaken against the Judicatum. When you afterwards came hither at my invitation, letters were exchanged between you and Vigilius in order to a common assembly.1 But now he had altered his view would no longer have a synod, but required that only the three patriarchs and one other bishop (in communion with the Pope and the three bishops about him) should decide the matter. In vain we sent several commands to him to take part in the synod. He rejected also our two proposals, either to call a tribunal for decision, or to hold a smaller assembly, at which, besides him and his three bishops, every other patriarch should have place and voice, with from three to five bishops of his diocese.* We further declare that we hold fast to the decrees of the four Councils, and in every way follow the holy Fathers, Athanasius, Hilary,Basil, Gregory the Theologian, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Theophilus, John (Chrysostom) of Constantinople, Cyril, Augustine, Proclus, Leo and their writings on the true faith. As, however, the heretics are resolved to defend Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius with their impieties, and maintain that that letter of Ibas was received by the Synod of Chalcedon, so do we exhort you to direct your attention to the impious writings of Theodore, and especially to his Jewish Creed which was brought forward at Ephesus and Chalcedon, and anathematized by each synod with those who had so held or did so hold; and we further exhort you to consider what the holy Fathers have written concerning him and his blasphemies, as well as what our predecessors have promulgated, as also what the Church historians have set forth concerning him.2 You will thence see that he and his heresies have since been condemned and that therefore his name has long since been struck from the diptychs of the Church of Mopsuestia. Consider the absurd assertion that heretics ought not to be anathematized after their deaths; and we exhort you further to follow in this matter the doctrine of the holy Fathers, who condemned not only living heretics but also anathematized after their death those who had died in their iniquity, just as those who had been unjustly condemned they restored after their death and wrote their names in the sacred diptychs; which took place in the case of John and of Flavian of pious memory, both of them bishops of Constantinople.3 Moreover we exhort you to examine the writing of Theodoret and the supposed letter of Ibas, in which the incarnation of the Word is denied, the expression "Mother of God" and the holy Synod of Ephesus rejected, Cyril called a heretic, and Theodore and Nestorius defended and praised. And as they say that the Council of Chalcedon has received this letter, you must compare the declarations of this Council relating to the faith with the contents of the impious letter. Finally, we entreat you to accelerate the matter. For he who when asked concerning the right faith, puts off his answer for a long while, does nothing else but deny the right faith. For in questioning and answering on things which are of faith, it is not he who is found first or second, but he who is the more ready with a right confession, that is acceptable to God. May God keep you, most holy and religious fathers, for many years. Given IV. Nones of May, at Constantinople, in the xxviith year of the reign of the imperial lord Justinian, the perpetual Augustus, and in the xiith year after the consulate of the most illustrious Basil.