Document: Letter 12
Date: 381
Addressee: Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius
English Translation: FC 26.216-219
Summary of Contents: Petition to Theodosius to settle disputes in the sees of Alexandria and Antioch

We are unable, even with the most overflowing return of thanks, to match the benefits of your Piety, most clement Emperors, most blessed and glorious Princes, Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius, beloved of God the Father and of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. After many seasons and various persecutions which the Arians brought upon all Catholics, and especially Lucius, who attacked monks and virgins with unholy slaughter, and Demophilus, too, a dread source of impiety, all the churches of God, particularly in the East, have been restored to the Catholics; and in the West just two heretics have been found to oppose the holy council. Who, then, would feel able to make acknowledgment adequate to your favors?

Although we cannot express your favors in words, we still desire to compensate them by the prayers of the council. Although in all of our several churches we celebrate vigils each day before God for your Empire, yet assembled together, thinking no service more glorious, we offer thanks to our almighty God for the Empire and for your peace and well-being, because through you peace and concord have been shed upon us.

In only two small corners of the West, that is, on the borders of southern Dacia and in Moesia, did there appear to be murmurs against the faith. Now, after the vote of the council, we feel that these should at once be allowed the indulgence of your Clemency. Throughout all territories and districts and village departments as far as the ocean, the communion of the faithful remains one and unsullied. And Arians in the East who had violently laid hold of churches have, we learn with great joy and happiness, been ejected, and the sacred temples of God are attended by Catholics alone.

But, since the envy of the Devil never subsides, word comes to our ears that there are among the Catholics themselves frequent dissensions and restless discord. All our feelings are stirred at learning that many new [disturbances] have taken place, and that persons are now molested, who should have been relieved, men who remained always in communion with us. In fact, Timothy, Bishop of the Church at Alexandria, and Paulinus of Antioch, who always maintained an unbroken concord of communion with us, are said to be distressed by the dissensions of others, whose faith was steadfast in former times. If it is possible, and if these people are recommended by the fullness of their faith, we should like to have them added to our fellowship, on the condition that our associates in the ancient communion may keep their privilege. Our concern for them is not unnecessary, first, because the fellowship of communion ought to be without offense, and second, because we have long received letters from both parties, and especially from those in the Church at Antioch who were heretics.

Indeed, if hostile interference had not been a hindrance, we should have arranged to send some of our own number to act as mediators and judges in restoring peace, if possible. But, since our desires could not take effect at that time, because of the troubles of the state, we feel that we should offer your Piety our prayers, asking that by mutual agreement, when a bishop dies, the rights of the Church should belong to the survivor, and no other consecration be forcibly attempted. Therefore, we request you, O most clement and Christian Princes, to permit a council of all Catholic bishops at Alexandria, where they may more fully discuss together and decide to what persons communion is to be granted and with whom it is to be maintained.

Although we have always upheld the direction and order of the Church at Alexandria, and in accord with the manner and custom of our predecessors have maintained communion with it in indissoluble fellowship even down to the present time, yet, that others may not seem less esteemed, who have sought our communion by an agreement which we desire to continue, or lest we neglect a short-cut to peace and fellowship with the faithful, we entreat you that, when they have discussed these matters in a full assembly, the decrees of the bishops may be furthered by the help of your Piety. Allow us to be notified, that our minds may not waver in uncertainty, but that joyously and peacefully we may give thanks before almighty God for your Piety, not only that disbelief has been eliminated but faith and harmony restored to Catholics. This the Churches of Africa and Gaul beg you through their legates, that you may make the bishops of the whole world your debtors, although the debt already due your Virtue is by no means slight.

To entreat your Clemency and, to obtain our requests, we have sent as legates our brethren and fellow priests whom we ask you to condescend to hear graciously and allow to return speedily.

Translation from FC 26.116-119, adapted by SMT

Ambrose Abbreviations

Back to the Writings of Ambrose

Last updated: 4-28-2011

No Responses yet