A.A.Vaschalde, Three Letters of Philoxenus (1902). pp. 93- 105. Letter to the Monks.
||127| [Letter of Mar Aksenaya] which was written by him to the Monks (2).
To the holy, pure, and faithful convents, healthy members of the body of the truth of Christ God Who is over all; zealous supporters of orthodoxy (3), ye who heal the breaches of error ||128| which false doctrines have made in the body of faith; (to) ye all whom I have seen in body and in spirit, holy monasteries (4).
It is good and fitting for the truth to be declared openly, because truth is like unto light in the type of its manifestation which is for all. For, as light has been made to shine on every thing so also truth has been revealed in the world to enlighten every man, according to the words of Him Who is Truth, and Who has given the truth: «That which I tell |94 I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light; and that which you hear in your ears, preach ye upon the house-tops» (5). And, to teach us that we must not only preach the truth in simple words to our friends, but that we must declare it also before enemies, with that confidence that fights with death, He said to us: «And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul» (6). And again, in the public confession before persecutors, He exhorts and urges us by His promises to declare the faith which He has delivered unto us, saying: «Every one that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father Who is in heaven, and before His angels; but he that shall deny Me, I will also deny him before the Father ||129| and before the angels» (7).
Such is the openness, therefore, with which Jesus Our God commands us to declare our truth, and not to be ashamed, and not to blush, and not to be acceptors of persons in authority, and not to seek to please those men who are the adversaries of truth; for he who wishes to please men cannot be a servant of Christ. But as for him who has experienced the love of Christ, and tasted the sweetness of truth, nothing shall ever be able to diminish the ardor of his pursuit in search of the truth which he loves. For truth is agreeable and sweet above all things; and it inflames every soul, that has tasted it rightly, to seek after it. Like the divine Apostles and the holy Martyrs, every one who has experienced this pleasure seeks it with an unspeakable ardor. Nothing was able to diminish the ardor of their love in the pursuit of truth: neither fire, nor beasts, nor swords, nor the combs (of executioners), nor exile from country to country, nor close confinement in dungeons, nor the insults of enemies, nor calumnies, nor injustices, nor the inconstancy of friends, nor the |95 defection of acquaintances, nor separation from family, nor the opposition of the whole world, nor the onslaught of visible and invisible (enemies), nor anything ||130| above or below, can separate from the love of Christ those who have tasted and perceived the truth, as St. Paul, in the ardor of this love, speaking for all those like himself, declared, (saying): «For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor powers, nor virtues, nor height, nor depth, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate me from the love of Christ (our) God» (8).
It behooves every one who is a disciple of truth to place this mirror before his eyes, and to look at it constantly, and he shall not be cast down by the fear of anything. For in the truth and love of Christ there is no fear, and he who fears is not perfect in love. Every thing that is not from truth is placed outside of truth: whether fear or lying, whether flattery or respect of persons, love of pleasures or thirst for power. These and similar things are placed outside of truth; and, as these things cannot be in truth, those who are enslaved by them cannot remain in truth nor possess faith. For they are those ||131| whose god is their belly (9) which has become to them the master of their lives; wherever they find its pleasures and desires, there they tarn; they so identify themselves with it that they remain slaves to their shame, and never give up the pleasures of the flesh.
But as for us, O dear (brethren), athletes in the spiritual warfare, it is not becoming for us to deal thus with truth, which is our life; but (it behooves us) to renounce whatever is outside of it, and to confess that in it alone are our light and our joy, our wealth and our priceless treasure, and the breath of our spiritual life.
Now, because it is necessary to make known the cause of my discourse, what it is about, and the reason for which it was |96 written, I state clearly the scope of my discourse. Briefly, I (intend to) demonstrate in writing the truth of the faith which I have learned from the Holy Books and from the interpreters of the Church, my masters, for the joy and consolation of those who love me in truth and for truth's sake, and for the shame and confusion of heretics, disciples of the demons, who calumniate me and call me a deceiver, and insult in me the truth which I have learned and which I preach. For, since they call truth error, ||132| these liars give the name of deceivers to the heralds of truth.
Who then or what is truth, if not Jesus Christ, the God Who is over all, He Who said, «I am the Truth, and the Light, and the Life» (10). This Jesus, God the Word, is our truth, with His Father and with His Holy Spirit: one Trinity, one essence, one divinity, one nature from everlasting and from eternity. For there is not in Him (God) nature and nature, nor essence and essence, nor anything recent or old, but One in Three and Three in One; an eternal nature and eternal persons, one essence adored with its persons from everlasting and from eternity.
One of the persons of this essence is the Mediator of our Confession (11), Truth from Truth, Light from Light, Living from the Living One, and Immortal from Him Who does not die. By the will of the essence (12), this same person came down from heaven, that is, God from God, natural Son of a natural Father, the Splendor of the Father and His essential Image, God the Word Who is over all. He came down and dwelt in the pure Virgin who was sanctified by God the Spirit, and He became man of her without change, in everything like unto us ||133| except sin, there having been neither change, nor variation, nor confusion in His nature, as God Himself said by the Prophet, «I am |97 and I change not» (13). For He Who was not made is not mutable; He Who was not created cannot change. Therefore He became man without change; He was embodied, and remained as He is. spiritual.
He did not cause the person of a man to adhere to Himself that two might be counted in Him, He and a man adhering to Him. Nor did He enter and dwell in another, He Who is the Only Son, but He was embodied from our nature and He is not counted two. He became man of the Virgin, and His person was not doubled; He became (man), and He was not changed, because even in His becoming His essence remained without change. For as He is in His essence, so He remained also in His becoming, that is, without change.
The Ancient of days became a child; the Most High became an infant in the womb, and God became man in the womb. The Spiritual One became corporal; the Invisible One was seen; the Intangible One was handled; He Who is consubstautial with the Father became of us in His becoming, because He, God the Word, was embodied in the Virgin and of the Virgin. He did not bring His body down from heaven, as Bardesanes said; nor was He seen under a false appearance or a phantom, according to ||134| the blasphemy of Mani and Marcion; nor was (His body) made from nothing, as said Eutyches the fool; nor was His nature changed, as the wicked Arius and Eunomius imagine; nor was He, Who was embodied, without (human) intelligence, according to the blasphemous doctrine of Apollinaris; but He Who is perfect God took a body, and became perfect man of the Virgin.
The Word was not embodied in the Virgin, as if not also of the Virgin, but He truly became man in her and of her. For the Virgin was not indeed a channel (through which) God |98 (passed), but (His) true Mother, because He became man of her. Nor again was God born in another man, for a man was not born in whom God dwelt, according to the teaching of the impious Nestorius and his mad disciples; but God, Who was embodied without change, was born of the Virgin. For He, Who descended into her as God, the very Same came forth from her as man; and the one Whom she conceived spiritually, the very Same she brought forth corporally. And He, Whose generation from the Father is without beginning, was brought forth with a beginning in His generation from the Virgin.
(Being) of a supernatural nature, He became man; (being) of a supernatural nature, ||135| He was born of a creature; (being) of a supernatural nature, He sucked milk; (being) of a supernatural nature, He grew in stature. Let us beware of the impiety of those who say that the Virgin (14) brought forth God and a man; who divide and count two in Him Who is the Only Son of God, Who is from two, from the divinity and from the humanity; (of the impiety of those) who divide (Christ), and in this one God Who was embodied, attribute humiliation to the one and glory to the other, power to the one and weakness to the other.
Thus, indeed, do these dishonest (men) speak: «One was born, and the other was not born; one sucked and the other did not suck; one was circumcised and the other was not; one grew and the other did not; one (15) ate and the other did not; one drank and the other did not; one fasted and the other did not; one (16) was hungry and the other was not; one slept and the other did not; one suffered and the other did not; one died and the other did not; and (so these) dishonest men divide unto one and another all these words which are spoken of Christ, as if one was born truly and the other in deception, as if one suffered |99 in fact and the other ||136| in name, and as if one died in reality and the other in fraud.
But it is not at all in the sense that a man or a body distinct (17) from God died, that death is spoken of God, as it is not in the sense that a man or the body of (18) another person distinct from God was born, that birth is spoken of God; for, it was not a body that was born, but it was God, Who became a body, and (19) remained in His nature God; and it was not a body that was crucified, but it was God, Who became man, and (20) in His death did not lose His life. Not one with another was born; but one God Who was embodied was born. There were not two at the birth, nor two on the Cross; but one was born, and the Same one was crucified. And as of the Virgin, not one in another, nor one with another was born, but one God became man of her without change and the Same is one in His divinity and His humanity; so also on the Cross one was suspended and not two.
Therefore, that God was born of the Virgin, the Church of God believes; (that) God was crucified for all, the truth of the Holy Books declares. Christ is the Son, and the Son is God, ||137| and God is the Word, and the Word is consubstantial (with God). If it is written that Christ was crucified, it is God Who was crucified. Christ died and He also rose. Not one was the Christ Who died, and another the God Who did not die; not one was the Only Son Who was given for the redemption of the world, and another the Word Who was not given; not one was the Son Who suffered and died, and another Who remained without suffering. It is written, «God so loved the world as to give His Only Begotten Son for it» (21). This Only Son Who |100 was given to death for the redemption of the world, is He of Whom it is said, «The World was made flesh, and dwelt among us» (22). Again, Paul said, «God was reconciled with us by the death of His Son» (23). And again he said, «Verity He did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all» (24). This Son, by Whose death He (God) was reconciled with us and Whom He delivered to suffering for us, is no other than God the Son Who was begotten of God the Father. Therefore, whether the Holy Books say that Christ, or the Son, or the Only Begotten, or Jesus was born and died, it is God Who was born and died, and not another distinct from Him. For we do not acknowledge ||138| a Son Who is not God, nor a God Who is not Christ.
Be not troubled, therefore, O hearer, at this (statement) that God was crucified for us. For, if God was born of the Virgin, God was also suspended on the Cross. And if a heretic should say, «How can God die?», ask him in return, «How can God be born?» If then He was born of the Woman (25), although He is from the Father in His first generation, He also tasted death of His own will, although He is living in His nature. And as, when He became man, He remained God as He is, without change, so also, when He tasted death for us. He did not lose the life of His nature. For it is God Who became man for us, and it is the Living One Who tasted death for our sake. Let them not deceive thee, O faithful (hearer), by words fraught with fatal discord, as they say to thee, «How can God die?» When thou hearest this from them, return them the answer. «How can God be born?» If, being (already) born, |101 He was born; if existing, He became (man), therefore also, being living, He died of His own will (26).
It was not indeed a mortal or a man that died for us; ||139| for every mortal that dies, dies for himself; and every sufferer that suffers, suffers for himself; and every thing that, not existing, comes into existence, comes into existence for itself. Herein then is a great mystery of profound love and of ineffable salvation, that He Who is became, not that He might be, since He is, but that we, through His becoming (Incarnation), might become the sons of God. Everything that He became, He became, not for Himself, but for us. For He was not a sufferer by His nature, because, if He had suffered being a sufferer (by nature), He would have suffered for Himself. Nor did He become mortal in punishment for the transgression of the (original) precept, as is the case with us, but He is immortal because He is God. (27) Nor did He become immortal by being justified by His works, as the wicked followers of Nestorianism assert; but by His nature He is immortal because He is God, as the whole Church of God cries out in the Trisagion: «Thou art Holy, God; Thou art Holy, Strong One; Thou art Holy Immortal One; (Thou) Who wast crucified for UP, have mercy on us». It is, therefore, this Holy, Strong, Immortal God, Who was crucified for us (28). Thus does the ||140| true Church believe, thus do the tongues which are moved by truth cry out that He, Who is immortal by nature, God the Word, was crucified in body for all, not that a body or a man distinct from Him was suspended on the Cross.
Invisible (29), we see Him; not tangible, we handle Him; not capable of being eaten, we eat Him; not capable of being tasted, we drink Him; we embrace Him Who is all powerful; we |102 kiss Him Who is infinite. Of Him, Who is immortal, we believe that He died for us; of Him, Who is impassible, we confess that He suffered for us. «We preach unto you that which was from the beginning», said John in his epistle, «that which we have hoard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled of the Word of life, for the life was manifested. And we have seen, and do bear witness, and declare unto you the life eternal, which was with the Father, and hath been revealed to us» (30).
(31) Thou hearest how this Apostle, who knew the mysteries of Christ, preaches to thee concerning truth, and cries out to thee that the life, which was with the Father, has been revealed; that He Who was invisible has appeared; that He Who was inaudible ||141| has been heard; (32) that He Who was not tangible has been handled; that He Who was silent has conversed. Which dost thou wish to hear, O faithful (hearer), this Apostle who knew the secrets of God the Word, or the mad Nestorius and his wicked followers who say that another man, distinct from the Word, bore and suffered everything for us?
We, on the contrary, believe in the Only Begotten God the Word, Who came down and was embodied of the Virgin in an ineffable manner, and remained, in His nature, God. We do not say, like the erring disciples of Eutyches, that He was embodied in the Virgin, but not of her; but we believe (that He was embodied) in her and of her, and not in any other way He might have pleased, as those liars claim. We say that He wished to become, and became (man) of the Virgin, who was of the seed of the house of David, as the Books teach, and as the teachers of truth have delivered unto us; not that a man. who was not, came into existence in the Virgin and adhered to God, as |103 the impious Nestorius said, which man bore and suffered all the things of his nature in agreement with his own nature. Not so ||142| does truth affirm, not so does faith declare. For he who counts another man with God, introduces a quaternity in his doctrine and destroys the dogma of the Holy Trinity. With pagans is such a doctrine to be counted, for, like them, it errs inventing a new god, against that which is written, «There shall not be to thee a new god» (33). It adores a new god, a man born of a woman.
It is not a man, therefore, that was exalted, was honored, and became God; but it is God Who abased Himself, humbled Himself, emptied Himself, and became man; and because He is God by His nature, and did not become God, not being God (first), for the same reason, having become man, He did not change, but remained one God as He is, and He is counted, with the Father and with the Spirit, one Holy Trinity: «Go ye forth, teach all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost» (34). One Father, with Whom there is no other Father; one Son with Whom there is no other Son; one Holy Ghost with Whom there is no other Spirit. There is not (in each divine person) one with one, and another ||143| with another, for each one of them is one: the Father Who has no body; the Son Who was really embodied; and the Holy Ghost Who is adored with the Father and with the Son. This is the Holy and Adorable Trinity Which we confess; outside of It, we know no other, and anything which is named and called God outside of It, is to be anathematized.
I have written to you these things in haste, O holy servants of truth, not as teaching, but to show the conformity of my faith |104 with yours. I pray that in this (faith) I may depart from this life to its life, and that I may bo offered in sacrifice for this truth which I confess. I exhort you also to be open defenders and preachers of the truth. Be not afraid of man; do not desist from fighting zealously for the truth, saying: «We are solicitous for the quiet of our ascetic life». Ascetic life is beautiful (indeed), and the works of justice are worthy of praise. (But) these (works) are members whose head is truth, and if the head is cut off, the members perish.
Let no man say: «I keep my faith to myself»; for thou dost not ||144| preserve it in thyself, if, seeing it perish in others, thou remainest negligent. Where is the virgin who would insist on staying in her chamber, if she heard that her father's room is on fire? If she remains negligent, it will happen that the fire will become master of the room in which she dwells. Therefore, you also, without losing the purity of your monastic life, be defenders and open preachers of the truth; and pray also for me, I beseech you all at your feet, that I may be found worthy to suffer for my God as He suffered for me.
I heard that, after I had gone from you, they circulated (35) false reports about me, calling me a deceiver and corruptor. As to myself, I pray that such an error may remain with me to the end of my life. May God forgive them and grant them pardon; may He open to them the gate of repentance that they may know His truth.
(36) Anathema upon Nestorius and Eutyches, and their doctrines and their disciples; upon every one who agrees with them; upon every one who does not anathematize them with mouth and heart, and does not confess that Christ, God the Word, one of the Trinity, was crucified for us. |105 If any man love not Our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema (37). ||145|
The End (38).
What you have heard by word (of mouth), I have sent to yon in writing, and also to the holy friends whom I have not seen in the body, by Ephrem, the bearer of this letter to Mar Acacius, the priest, who, for a long time, after the example of his master, has waged a war of this kind. Therefore, have courage, for this is the time of the harvest, in which we will reap the new fruits of the works of justice, in the field of the zeal for the faith of Christ God, Who is over all; to Whom be glory for ever. Amen.
[Footnotes moved to end and renumbered]
1. (1) The numbers in the margin refer to the pages of the Syriac text, the sign || indicating where the page of the text begins. The translation has been made as literal as possible; the words added to bring out more clearly the meaning of the text are placed between brackets.
2. (2) The title in B (Vat. Syr. Ms. 135) is: By the power of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we begin to write a compilation of works of all kinds. First, the letter of the Saint Mär Aksenäyä to the monks on the subject of faith. The title in C (Vat. Syr. Ms. 136) is: Again, the second letter of Mar Aksenaya.
3. (3) The word orthodoxy here is synonymous with Monophysitism.
4. (4) B and C add: I, Aksenaya, a disciple of you all and an humble member, yet found worthy of your divine truth, (wish you) abundant peace
5. (1) St. MATTHEW, x, 27.
6. (2) St. MATTHEW, x, 28.
7. (3) St. MATTHEW, x, 32,33.
8. (1) ROMANS, viii, 38-39.
9. (2) PHILIPPIANS, iii. 19. C adds «And whose glory is in their shame».
10. (1) St. JOHN, xiv, 6,
11. (2) B has «The Mediator of the divinity».
12. (3) B has «By the will of the divinity».
13. (1) MALACHIAS. III, 6.
14. (1) B has «Mary».
15. (2) B omits all as far as «one fasted».
16. (3) B omits all as far as «one slept».
17. (1) BC omit «distinct from God».
18. (2) BC omit «of another person distinct from God».
19. (3) BC omit «and remained in His nature God».
20. (4) BC omit «and in His death did not lose His life».
21. (5) ST. JOHN, iii. 16.
22. (1) St. JOHN, I, 14.
23. (2) ROMANS, v, 10.
24. (3) ROMANS, viii, 32.
25. (4) B has «If then God was born of the Virgin».
26. (1) B omits «of His own will».
27. (2) B omits all as far as, «as the whole Church, etc.».
28. (3) B omits this whole sentence.
29. (4) C has «Immortal».
30. (1) I St. JOHN, i, 1-3.
31. (2) B omits all as far as «He Who was invisible».
32. (3) B omits all as far as «He Who was silent».
33. (1) DEUTERONOMY, v, 7.
34. (2) St. MATTHEW, xxviii. 19.
35. (1) B has «they wrote».
36. (2) B and C omit all as far as «What you have heard».
37. (1) I Corinthians, xvi, 22.
38. (2) Thus far Ms. A. What follows is found only in B and C.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2003. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.
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