Leo the Great: letters 1096
(Requesting him to keep Easter on March 23 in 452).
(Informing him that the Tome has been approved by the Synod of Milan, and containing the subscriptions of the bishops there assembled).
The great and holy and universal Synod, which by the grace of God and the sanction of our most pious and Christ-loving Emperors has been gathered together in the metropolis of Chalcedon in the province of Bithynia, to the most holy and blessed archbishop of Rome, Leo.
I. They Congratulate Leo on Taking the Foremost Part in Maintaining the Faith.
“Our mouth was filled with joy and our tongue with exultation1 .” This prophecy grace has fitly appropriated to us for whom the security of religion is ensured. For what is a greater incentive to cheerfulness than the Faith? what better inducement to exultation than the Divine knowledge which the Saviour Himself gave us from above for salvation, saying, “go ye and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things that I have enjoined you2 .” And this golden chain leading down from the Author of the command to us, you yourself have stedfastly preserved, being set as the mouthpiece unto all of the blessed Peter, and imparting the blessedness of his Faith unto all. Whence we too, wisely taking you as our guide in all that is good, have shown to the sons of the Church their inheritance of Truth, not giving our instruction each singly and in secret, but making known our confession of the Faith in conceit, with one consent and agreement And we were all delighted, revelling, as at an imperial banquet, in the spiritual food, which Christ supplied to us through your letter: and we seemed to see the Heavenly Bridegroom actually present with us. For if “where two or three are gathered together in His name,” He has said that “there He is in the midst of them3 ,” must He not have been much more particularly present with 520 priests, who preferred the spread of knowledge concerning Him to their country and their ease? Of whom you were, chief, as the head to the members, showing your goodwill4 in the person of those who represented you; whilst our religious Emperors presided to the furtherance of due order, inviting us to restore the doctrinal fabric of the Church, even as Zerubbabel invited Joshua to rebuild Jerusalem5 .
II. They Detail Dioscorus’ Wicked Acts.
And the adversary would have been like a wild beast outside the fold, roaring to himself and unable to seize any one, had not the late bishop of Alexandria thrown himself for a prey to him, who, though he had done many terrible things before, eclipsed the former by the latter deeds; for contrary to all the injunctions of the canons, he deposed that blessed shepherd of the saints at Constantinople, Flavian, who displayed such Apostolic faith, and the most pious bishop Eusebius, and acquitted by his terror-won votes Eutyches, who had been condemned for heresy, and restored to him the dignity which your holiness had taken away from him as unworthy of it, and like the strangest of wild beasts, falling upon the vine which he found in the finest condition, He uprooted it and brought in that which had been cast away as unfruitful, and those who acted like true shepherds he cut off, and set over the flocks those who had shown themselves wolves: and besides all this he stretched forth his fury even against him who had been charged with the custody of the vine by the Saviour, we mean of course your holiness, and purposed excommunication against one who had at heart the unifying of the Church. And instead of showing penitence for this, instead of begging mercy with tears, he exulted as if over virtuous actions, rejecting your holiness’ letter and resisting all the dogmas of the Truth.
III. We Have Deposed Eutyches, Treating Him as Mercifully as We Could.
And we ought to have left him in the position where he had placed himself: but, since we profess the teaching of the Saviour “who wishes all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the Truth6 ,” as a fact we took pains to carry out this merciful policy towards him, and called him in brotherly fashion to judgment, not as if trying to cut him off but affording him room for defence and healing; and we prayed that he might be victorious over the many charges they had brought against him, in order that we might conclude our meeting in peace and happiness and Satan might gum no advantage over us. But he, being absolutely convicted by his own conscience7 , by shirking the trial gave countenance to the accusations and rejected the three lawful summonses he received. In consequence of which, we ratified with such moderation as we could the vote which he had passed against himself by his blunders, stripping the wolf of his shepherd’s skin, which he had long been convicted of wearing for a pretence. Thereupon our troubles ceased and straightway a time of welcome happiness set in: and having pulled up one tare, we filled the whole world to our delight with pure grain: and having received, as it were, full power to rootup and to plant, we limited the up-rooting to one and carefully plant a crop of good fruit. For it was God who worked, and the triumphant Euphemia who crowned the meeting as for a bridal8 , and who, taking our definition of the Faith as her own confession, presented it to her Bridegroom by our most religious Emperor and Christ-loving Empress, appeasing all the tumult of opponents and establishing our confession of the Truth asacceptable to Him, and with hand and tonguesetting her seal9 to the votes of us all in proclamation thereof These are the things we have done, with you present in the spirit and known to approve of us as brethren, and all but visible to us through the wisdom of your representatives.
IV. They Announce Their Decision that Constantinople Should Take Precedence Next to Rome, and Ask Leo’s Consent to It.
And we further inform you that we have decided on other things also for the good management and stability of church matters, being persuaded that your holiness will accept and ratify them, when you are told. The long prevailing custom, which the holy Church of God at Constantinople had of ordaining metropolitans for the provinces of Asia, Pontus and Thrace, we have now ratified by the votes of the Synod, not so much by way of conferring a privilege on the See of Constantinople as to provide for the good government of those cities, because of the frequent disorders that arise on the death of their bishops, both clergy and laity being then without a leader and disturbing church order. And this has not escaped your holiness, particularly in the case of Ephesus, which has often caused you annoyance10 . We have ratified also the canon of the 150 holy Fathers who met at Constantinople in the time of the great Theodosius of holy memory, which ordains that after your most holy and Apostolic See, the See of Constantinople shall take precedence, being placed second: for we are persuaded that with your usual care for others you have often extended that Apostolic prestige which belongs to you, to the church in Constantinople also, by virtue of your great disinterestedness in sharing all your own good things with your spiritual kinsfolk. Accordingly vouchsafe most holy and blessed father to accept as your own wish, and as conducing to good government the things which we have resolved on for the removal of al confusion and the confirmation of church order. For your holiness’ delegates, the most pious bishops Paschasinus and Lucentius, and with them the right Godly presbyter Boniface, attempted vehemently to resist these decisions, from a strong desire that this good work also should start from your foresight, in order that the establishment of good order as well as of the Faith should be put to your account. For we duly regarding our most devout and Christ loving Emperors, who delight therein, and the illustrious senate and, so to say, the whole imperial city, considered it opportune to use the meeting of this ecumenical Synod for the ratification of your honour, and confidently corroborated this decision as if it were initiated by you with your customary fostering zeal, knowing that every success of the children rebounds to the parent’s glory. Accordingly, we entreat you, honour our decision by your assent, and as we have yielded to the head our agreement on things honourable, so may the head also fulfil for the children what is fitting. For thus will our pious Emperors be treated with due regard, who have ratified your holiness’ judgment as law, and the See of Constantinople will receive its recompense for having always displayed such loyalty on matters of religion towards you, and for having so zealously linked itself to you in full agreement. But that you may know that we have done nothing for favour or in hatred, but as being guided by the Divine Will, we have made known to you the whole scope of our proceedings to strengthen our position and to ratify and establish what we have done11 .
1 Ps 126,2,
2 Mt 28,19-20.
3 Ibid. Mt 18,20.
4 eunoian : others read eujboulivan (good advice).
5 The reference is to Esd 3,2.
6 1Tm 2,4,
7 ejn eJautw` akpaton tou` suneidovto" e(xwn to;n e(legxon.There seem’s however, some grounds, but no actual necessity for the reading e[ggpafon = written (instead of Akpaton) adopted by the Ball).
8 hJ to;n suvllogon tw` numfw`ni (lit. bride-chamber) stefanou`sa kallivniko" Eujfhmia ; this obscure passage is to a certain extent elucidated by Letter CI., chap. 3,(q. v).. The martyr, Euphemia,seems to have been a sort of patron saint of Chalcedon.
9 ejpisfragivsasa ; others ejpiyhfivsasa , which seems, meaningless here.
10 The reference (acc. to Ball). is to the dispute about the bishopric between Bassian and Stephen, in which Leo interfered, though the letter is not extant.
11 One of the Latin version’s adds the names and titles of the subscribing bishops here. For the subject matter of Chap. iv., see Introduction, p. 8,
(Announcing that the Tome has been accepted in Gaul also as a definitive statement of the Faith, with the bishops’ subscriptions)).
(Dealing much more briefly with the same subjects as Letter XCVIII. above).
(Dealing with much the same subjects as Letter XCVIII. from Anatolius’ own standpoint: Chap. 3,is translated in extenso as illustrating XCVIII., chap. iii).
III. He Describes the Circumstances Under Which the Doctrine of the Incarnation Had Been Formulated by the Synod.
But since after passing judgment upon him we had to come to an agreement with prayers and tears upon a definition of the right Faith; for that was the chief reason for the Emperor’s summoning the holy Synod, at which your holiness was present in the spirit with us, and wrought with us by the God-fearing men who were sent from you; we, having the protection of the most holy and beautiful martyr Euphemia, have all given ourselves to this important matter with all deliberateness. And as the occasion demanded that all the assembled holy bishops should publish a unanimous de cision for clearness and for an explicit statement of the Faith in our Lord-Jesus Christ the Lord God who is found and revealed even to those who seek Him not, yes, even to those who ask not for Him1 , in spite of some attempts to resist at first, nevertheless showed us His Truth, and ordained that it should be written down and proclaimed by all unanimously and without gainsaying, which thus confirmed the souls of the strong, and invited into the way of Truth all who were swerving therefrom. And, indeed, after unanimously setting our names to this document, we who have assembled in this ecumenical Synod in the name of the Faith of the same most holy and triumphant martyr, Euphemia, and of our most religious and Christ-loving Emperor Marcian, and our most religious and in all things most faithful daughter the Empress Pulcheria Augusta, with prayer and joy and happiness, having laid on the holy altar the definition written in accordance with your holy epistle for the confirmation of our Fathers’ Faith, presented it to their pious care; for thus they had asked to receive it, and, having received it, they glorified with us their Master Christ, who had driven away all the mist of heresy and had graciously made clear the word of Truth. And in this way was simultaneously established the peace of the Church and the agreement of the priests concerning the pure Faith by the Saviour’s mercy.
1 Cf. Is 65,1.
(Thanking them for their letter (viz. XCIX). to him, and announcing the result of the Synod of Chalcedon).
(Written later: enclosing a copy of the sentence against Eutyches and Dioscorus).
(To Marcian Augustus, about the presumption of Anatolius, by the hand of Lucian the bishop and Basil the deacon).
I. He Congratulates the Emperor on His Share in the Triumph of the Catholic Faith.
By the great bounty of God’s mercy the joys of the whole catholic Church were multiplied when through your clemency’s holy and glorious zeal the most pestilential error was abolished among us; so that our labours the more speedily reached their desired end, because your God-serving Majesty bad so faithfully and powerfully assisted them. For although the liberty of the Gospel had to be defended against certain dissentients in the power of the Holy Ghost, and through the instrumentality of the Apostolic See, yet God’s grace has shown itself more manifestly (than we could have hoped) by vouchsafing to the world that in the victory of the Truth only the authors of the violation of the Faith should perish1 and the Church restored to her soundness. Accordingly the war which the enemy of our peace had stirred up, was so happily ended, the Lord’s right hand fighting for us, that when Christ triumphed all His priests shared in the one victory, and when the light of Truth shone forth, only the shades of error, with its champions, were dispelled. For as in believing the Lord’s own resurrection, with a view to strengthen the beginnings of Faith, confidence was much increased by the fact that certain Apostles doubted of the bodily reality of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by examining the prints of the nails and the wound of the spear with sight and touch removed the doubts of all by doubting; so now, too, while the misbelief of some is refuted, the hearts of all hesitaters are strengthened, and that which caused blindness to some few avails for the enlightenment of the whole body. In which work your clemency duly and rightly rejoices, having faithfully and properly provided that the devil’s snares should do no hurt to the Eastern churches, but that to propitiate God everywhere more acceptable holocausts should be offered; seeing that through the mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, one and the self-same creed is held by people, priests, and princes, O most glorious son and most clement Augustus.
II. Considering All the Circumstances Anatolius Might Have Been Expected to Shaw More Modesty.
But now that these things, about which so great a concourse of priests assembled, have been brought to a good and desirable conclusion, I am surprised and grieved that the peace of the universal Church which had been divinely restored is again being disturbed by a spirit of self-seeking. For although my brother Anatolius seems necessarily to have consulted his own interest in forsaking the error of those who ordained him, and with salutary change of mind accepting the catholic Faith, yet he ought to have taken care not to mar by any depravity of desire that which he is known to have obtained through your means2 . For we, having regard to your faith and intervention, though his antecedents were suspicious on account of those who consecrated him3 , wished to be kind rather than just towards him, that by the use of healing measures we might assuage all disturbances which through the operations of the devil had been excited; and this ought to have made him modest rather than the opposite. For even if he had been lawfully and regularly ordained for conspicuous merit, and by the wisest selection yet without respect to the canons of the Fathers, the ordinances of the Holy Ghost, and the precedents of antiquity, no votes could have availed in his favour. I speak before a Christian and a truly religious, truly orthodox prince (when I say that) Anatolius the bishop detracts greatly from his proper merits in desiring undue aggrandizement.
III. The City of Constantinople, Royal Though It Be, Can Never Be Raised to Apostolic Rank.
Let the city of Constantinople have, as we desire, its high rank, and under the protection of God’s right hand, long enjoy your clemency’s rule. Yet things secular stand on a differentbasis from things divine: and there can be no sure building save on that rock which the Lord has laid for a foundation. He that covets what is not his due, loses what is his own. Let it be enough for Anatolius that by the aid of your piety and by my favour and approval he has obtained the bishopric of so great a city. Let him not disdain a city which is royal, though he cannot make it an Apostolic See4 ; and let him on no account hope that he can rise by doing injury to others. For the privileges of the churches determined by the canons of the holy Fathers, and fixed by the decrees of the Nicene Synod, cannot be overthrown by any unscrupulous act, nor disturbed by any innovation. And in the faithful execution of this task by the aid of Christ I am bound to display an unflinching devotion; for it is a charge entrusted to me, and it tends to my condemnation if the rules sanctioned by the Fathers and drawn up under the guidance of God’s Spirit at the Synod of Nicaea for the government of the whole Church are violated with my connivance (which God forbid), and if the wishes of a single brother have more weight with me than the common good of the Lord’s whole house.
IV. He Asks the Emperor to Express His Disapproval of Anatolius’ Self-Seeking Spirit.
And therefore knowing that your glorious clemency is anxious for the peace of the Church and extends its protection and approval to those measures which conduce to pacific unity, I pray and beseech you with earnest entreaty to refuse all sanction and protection to these unscrupulous attempts against Christian unity and peace, and put a salutary check upon my brother Anatolius’ desires, which will only injure himself, if he persists: that he may not desire things which are opposed to your glory and the needs of the times, and wish to be greater than his predecessors, and that it may be free for him to be as pre-eminent as he can in virtues, in which he will be partaker only if he prefer to be adorned with love rather than puffed up with ambition. The conception of this unwarrantable wish he ought indeed never to have received within the secret of his heart, but when my brothers and fellow-bishops who were there to represent me withstood him, he might at least have desisted from his unlawful self-seeking at their wholesome opposition. For both your gracious Majesty and his own letter affirm that the legates of the Apostolic See opposed him as they ought with the most justifiable resistance, so that his presumption was the less excusable in that not even when rebuked did it restrain itself.
V. And to Try to Bring Him to a Right Mind.
And hence, because it becomes your glorious faith that, as heresy was overthrown, God acting through you, so now all self-seeking should be defeated, do that which beseems both your Christian and your kingly goodness, so that the said bishop may obey the Fathers, further the cause of peace, and not think he had any right to ordain a bishop5 for the Church of Antioch, as he presumed to do without any precedent and contrary to the provisions of the canons: an act which from a longing to re-establish the Faith and in the interests of peace we have determined not to cancel. Let him abstain therefore from doing despite to the rules of the Church and shun unlawful excesses, lest in attempting things un-favourable to peace he cut himself off from the universal Church. I had much liefer love him for acting blamelessly than find him persist in this presumptuous frame of mind which may separate him from us all. My brother and fellow-bishop, Lucian, who with my son, Basil the deacon, brought your clemency’s letter to me, has fulfilled the duties he undertook as legate with all devotion: for he must not be reckoned to have failed in his mission, the course of events having rather failed him. Dated the 22nd of May in the consulship of the illustrious Herculanus (452).
1 Perish spiritually he means, as the sequel shows, for at least one great and good man on the catholic side, Flavian perished corporeally).
2 Viz., the See of Constantinople.
3 Dioscorus in particular.
4 The chief Apostolicoe sedes were Rome and Antioch, according to tradition founded by S. Peter, and Alexandria founded by his disciple S. Mark, and the See of Constantinople could not exercise jurisdiction over them).
5 One Maximus by name.
Leo the bishop to Pulcheria Augusta.
I. He Congratutates the Empress on the Triumph of the Faith, But Regrets the Introduction of a New Controversy into the Church.
We rejoice ineffably with your Grace that the catholic Faith has been defended against heretics and peace restored to the whole Church through your clemency’s holy and God-pleasing zeal: giving thanks to the Merciful and Almighty God that He has suffered none save those who loved darkness rather than light to be defrauded of the gospel-truth: so that by the removal of the mists of error the purest light might arise in the hearts of all, and that darkness-loving foe might not triumph over certain weak souls, whom not only those who stood unhurt but also those whom he had made to totter have overcome, and that by the abolition of error the true Faith might reign throughout the world, and “every tongue might confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father1 .” But when the whole world had been confirmed in the unity of the Gospel, and the hearts of all priests had been guided into the same belief, it had been better that besides those matters for which the holy Synod was assembled, and which were brought to a satisfactory agreement through your Grace’s zeal, nothing should be introduced to counteract so great an advantage, and that a council of bishops should not be made an occasion for the inopportune advancing of an illegitimate desire.
II. The Nicene Canons are Unalterable and Binding Universally.
For my brother and fellow-bishop Anatolius not sufficiently considering your Grace’s kindness and the favour of my assent, whereby he gained the priesthood of the church of Constantinople, instead of rejoicing at what he has gained, has been inflamed with undue desires beyond the measure of his rank, believing that his intemperate self-seeking could be advanced by the assertion that certain persons had signified their assent thereto by an extorted signature: notwithstanding that my brethren and fellow-bishops, who represented me, faithfully and laudably expressed their dissent from these attempts which are doomed to speedy failure. For no one may venture upon anything in opposition to the enactments of the Fathers’ canons which many long years ago in the city of Nicaea were founded upon the decrees of the Spirit, so that any one who wishes to pass any different decree injures himself rather than impairs them. And if all pontiffs will but keep them inviolate as they should, there will be perfect peace and complete harmony through all the churches: there will be no disagreements about rank, no disputes about ordinations, no controversies about privileges, no strifes about taking that which is another’s; but by the fair law of love a reasonable order will be kept both in conduct and in office, and he will be truly great who is found free from all self-seeking, as the Lord says, “Whosoever will become greater among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be first among you shall be your slave; even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister2 .” And yet these precepts were at the time given to men who wished to rise from a mean estate and to pass from the lowest to the highest things; but what more does the ruler of the church of Constantinople covet than he has gained? or what will satisfy him, if the magnificence and renown of so great a city is not enough? It is too arrogant and intemperate thus to step beyond all proper bounds and trampling on ancient custom to wish to seize another’s right: to increase one man’s dignity at the expense of so many metropolitans’ primacy, and to carry a new war of confusion into peaceful provinces which were long ago set at rest by the enactments of the holy Nicene Synod: to break through the venerable Fathers’ decrees by alleging the consent of certain bishops, which even the course of so many years has not rendered effective. For it is boasted that this has been winked at for almost 60 years now, and the said bishop thinks that he is assisted thereby; but it is vain for him to look for assistance from that which, even if a man dared to wish for it, yet he could never obtain.
1 Ph 1,2,
2 Mt 20,26-28.
III. Only by Imitating His Predecessor Will He Regain Leo’s Confidence: the Assent of the Bishops is Declared Null and Void.
Let him realize what a man he has succeeded, and expelling all the spirit of pride let him imitate Flavian’s faith, Flavian’s modesty, Flavian’s humility, which has raised him right to a confessor’s glory. If he will shine with his virtues, he will merit all praise, and in all quarters he will win an abundance of love not by seeking human advancement but by deserving Divine favour. And by this careful course I promise he will bind my heart also to him, and the love of the Apostolic See, which we have ever bestowed on the church of Constantinople, shall never be violated by any change. Because if sometimes rulers fall into errors through want of moderation, yet the churches of Christ do not lose their purity. But the bishops’ assents, which are opposed to the regulations of the holy canons composed at Nicaea in conjunction with your faithful Grace, we do not recognize, and by the blessed Apostle Peter’s authority we absolutely dis-annul in comprehensive terms, in all ecclesiastical cases obeying those laws which the Holy Ghost set forth by the 318 bishops for the pacific observance of all priests in such sort that even if a much greater number were to pass a different decree to theirs, whatever was opposed to their constitution would have to be held in no respect.
IV. He Requests the Empress to Give His Letter Her Favourable Consideration.
And so I request your Grace to receive in a worthy spirit this lengthy letter, in which I had to explain my views, at the hands of my brother and fellow-bishop Lucianus, who, as far as in him lies, has faithfully executed the anxious duties of his undertaking as my delegate, and of my son Basil, the deacon. And because it is your habit to labour for the peace and unity of the Church, for his soul’s health keep my brother Anatolius the bishop, to whom I have extended my love by your advice, within those limits which shall be profitable to him, that as your clemency’s glory is magnified already for the restoration of the Faith, so it may be published abroad for the restraint of self-seeking. Dated the 22nd of May, in the consulship of the illustrious Herculanus (452).
Leo, the bishop, to Anatolius, the bishop.
I. He Commends Anatolius Far His Orthodoxy, But Condemns Him Far His Presumption.
Now that the light of Gospel Truth has been manifested, as we wished, through God’s grace, and the night of most pestilential error has been dispelled from the universal Church, we are unspeakably glad in the Lord, because the difficult charge entrusted to us has been brought to the desired conclusion, even as the text of your letter announces, so that, according to the Apostle’s teaching, “we all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among us: but that we be perfect in the same mind and in the same knowledge1 .” In devotion to which work we commend you, beloved, for taking part: for thus you benefited those who needed correction by your activity, and purged yourself from all complicity with the transgressors. For when your predecessor Flavian, of happy memory, was deposed for his defence of catholic Truth, not unjustly it was believed that your ordainers seemed to have consecrated one like themselves, contrary to the provision of the holy canons. But God’s mercy was present in this, directing and confirming you, that you might make good use of bad beginnings, and show that you were promoted not by men’s judgment, but by God’s loving-kindness: and this may be accepted as true, on condition that you lose not the grace of this Divine gift by another cause of offence. For the catholic, and especially the Lord’s priest, must not only be entangled in no error, but also be corrupted by no covetousness; for, as says the Holy Scripture, “Go not after thy lusts, and decline from thy desire2 ” Many enticements of this world, many vanities must be resisted, that the perfection Of true self-discipline may be attained the first blemish of which is pride, the beginning of transgression and the origin of sin. For the mind greedy of power knows not either how to abstain from things forbidden nor to enjoy things permitted, so long as transgressions go unpunished and run into undisciplined and wicked excesses, and wrong doings are multiplied, which were only endured in our zeal for the restoration of the Faith and love of harmony3 .
II. Nothing Can Cancel or Modify the Nicene Canons.
And so after the not irreproachable beginning of your ordination, after the consecration of the bishop of Antioch, which you claimed for yourself contrary to the regulations of the canons. I grieve, beloved, that you have fallen into this too, that you should try to break down the most sacred constitutions of the Nicene canons4 : as if this opportunity had expressly offered itself to you for the See of Alexandria to lose its privilege of second place, and the church of Antioch to forego its right to being third in dignity, in order that when these places had been subjected to your jurisdiction, all metropolitan bishops might be deprived of their proper honour. By which unheard of and never before attempted excesses you went so far beyond yourself as to drag into an occasion of self-seeking, and force connivance from that holy Synod which the zeal of our most Christian prince had convened, solely to extinguish heresy and to confirm the catholic Faith: as if the unlawful wishes of a multitude could not be rejected, and that state of things which was truly ordained by the Holy Spirit in the canon of Nicaea could in any part be overruled by any one. Let no synodal councils flatter themselves upon the size of their assemblies, and let not any number of priests, however much larger, dare either to compare or to prefer themselves to those 318 bishops, seeing that the Synod of Nicaea is hollowed by God with such privilege, that whether by fewer or by more ecclesiastical judgments are supported, whatever is opposed to their authority is utterly destitute of all authority.
III. The Synod of Chalcedon, Which Met for One Purpose, Ought Never to Have Been Used for Another.
Accordingly these things which are found to be contrary to those most holy canons are exceedingly unprincipled and misguided. This haughty arrogance tends to the disturbance of the whole Church, which has purposed so to misuse a synodal council, as by wicked arguments to over-persuade, or by intimidation to compel, the brethren to agree with it, when they had been summoned simply on a matter of Faith, and had come to a decision on the subject which was to engage their care. For it was on this ground that our brothers sent by the Apostolic see, who presided in our stead at the synod with commendable firmness, withstood their illegal attempts, openly protesting against the introduction of any reprehensible innovation contrary to the enactments of the Council of Nicaea. And there can be no doubt about their opposition, seeing that you yourself in your epistle complain of their wish to contravene your attempts. And therein indeed you greatly commend them to me by thus writing, whereas you accuse yourself in refusing to obey them concerning your unlawful designs, vainly seeking what cannot be granted, and craving what is bad for your soul’s health, and can never win our consent. For may I never be guilty of assisting so wrong a desire, which ought rather to be subverted by my aid, and that of all who think not high things, but agree with the lowly.
IV. The Nicene Canons are for Universal Application and Not to Be Wrested to Private Interpretations.
These holy and venerable fathers who in he city of Nicaea, after condemning the blasphemous Arius with his impiety, laid down a code of canons for the Church to last till the end of the world, survive not only with us but with the whole of mankind in their constitutions; and, if anywhere men venture upon what is contrary to their decrees, it is ipso facto null and void; so that what is universally laid down for our perpetual advantage can never be modified by any change, nor can the things which were destined for the common good be perverted to private interests; and thus so long as the limits remain, which the Fathers fixed, no one may invade another’s right but each must exercise himself within the proper and lawful bounds, to the extent of his power, in the breadth of love; of which the bishop of Constantinople may reap the fruits richly enough, if he rather relies on the virtue of humility than is puffed up with the spirit of self-seeking.
V. The Sanction Alleged to Have Been Accorded 60 Years Ago to the Supremacy of Constantinople Over Alexandria and Antioch is Worthless.
“Be not highminded,” brother, “but fear5 ,” and cease to disquiet with unwarrantable demands the pious ears of Christian princes, who I am sure will be better pleased by your modesty than by your pride. For your purpose is in no way whatever supported by the written assent of certain bishops given, as you allege, 60 years ago6 , and never brought to the knowledge of the Apostolic See by your predecessors; and this transaction, which from its outset was doomed to fall through and has now long done so, you now wish to bolster up by means that are too late and useless, viz., by extracting from the brethren an appearance of consent which their modesty from very weariness yielded to their own injury. Remember what the Lord threatens him with, who shall have caused one of the little ones to stumble, and get wisdom to understand what a judgment of God he will have to endure who has not feared to give occasion of stumbling to so many churches and so many priests. For I confess I am so fist bound by love of the whole brotherhood that I will not agree with any one in demands which are against his own interests, and thus you may clearly perceive that my opposition to you, beloved, proceeds from the kindly intention to restrain you from disturbing the universal Church by sounder counsel. The rights of provincial primates may not be overthrown nor metropolitan bishops be defrauded of privileges based on antiquity. The See of Alexandria may not lose any of that dignity which it merited through S. Mark, the evangelist and disciple of the blessed Peter, nor may the splendour of so great a church be obscured by another’s clouds, Dioscorus having fallen through his persistence in impiety. The church of Antioch too, in which first at the preaching of the blessed Apostle Peter the Christian name arose7 , must continue in the position assigned it by the Fathers, and being set in the third place must never be lowered therefrom. For the See is on a different footing to the holders of it; and each individual’s chief honour is his own integrity. And since that does not lose its proper worth in any place, how much more glorious must it be when placed in the magnificence of the city of Constantinople, where many priests may find both a defence of the Fathers’ canons and an example of uprightness in observing you?
VI. Christian Love Demands Self-Denial Not Self-Seeking.
In thus writing to you, brother, I exhort and admonish you in the Lord, laying aside all ambitious desires to cherish rather a spirit of love and to adorn yourself to your profit with the virtues of love, according to the Apostle’s teaching. For love “is patient and kind, and envies not, acts not iniquitously, is not puffed up, is not ambitious, seeks not its own8 .” Hence if love seeks not its own, how greatly does he sin who covets another’s? From which I desire you to keep yourself altogether, and to remember that sentence which says, “Hold what thou hast, that no other take thy crown9 .” For if you seek what is not permitted, you will deprive yourself by your own action and judgment of the peace of the universal Church. Our brother and fellow-bishop Lucian and our son Basil the deacon, attended to your injunctions with all the zeal they possessed, but justice refused to give effect to their pleadings. Dated the 22nd of May in the consulship of the illustrious Herculanus (452).
1 1Co 1,10.
2 Ecclesiasticus 18,30. The application of the description “Holy Scripture” to an Apocryphyal book will not escape notice.
3 Cf. Letter CIV., chap. 5,
4 The wording of Canon 6 is as follows: mos antiquus perduret, in Aegypto vel Libya et Pentapoli, ut Alexandrinus episcopus horum omnium habeat potestatem, quoniam quidem et episcopo Romano parilis mos est. Similiter autem et apud Antiochiam ceterasque provincias ( ejparxiva" ) honor suus unicuique servetur ecclesioe :where it will be noticed, no mention is made of Constantinople at all, so that its position is not explicitly defined either way).
5 Rm 11,20,
6 Cf. Letter CV., chap. 2,end).
7 Ac 11,26,
8 1Co 13,4,
9 Ap 3,2.
Leo the Great: letters 1096