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The Letter of Stephen of Dora to Pope St. Martin I

This letter was read in Session II of the Lateran Council of 649, which fought against Monothelitism



To the holy and apostolic synod convened in this renowned and elder Rome according to the grace of God and the authoritative bidding of Martin the thrice-blessed pope, who is religiously presiding over it for the sacred confirmation and vindication of the definitions and decrees of the fathers and councils of the catholic church, I, Stephen by the mercy of God bishop and first man in the jurisdiction subject to the archiepiscopal see of Jerusalem, present what follows. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all consolation, who, by the blessed and episcopal convening of your most holy selves, has consoled us in all our affliction, namely that which we feel for his holy catholic church because of those who oppose the word of faith. For like ‘wild waves’ they assailed and troubled her with their heresy, when, honoured by God, she was enjoying peace and calm, first of all Theodore bishop of Pharan, then Cyrus of Alexandria, and subsequently Sergius of Constantinople and his successors Pyrrhus and Paul. For these men revived the doctrines of the heretics Apollinarius and Severus, by which they held and defined one will and one operation of the Godhead and manhood of Christ; there is testimony to this in their writings, which they disseminated throughout the world for the deception of the more simple-minded. For they contrived not only to expound and record these doctrines but also to publish them openly, in opposition to all the doctrines of the fathers and councils of the church, by means both of chapters read out from the pulpit and written anathemas against those whose beliefs differed from theirs, and of decrees, subscriptions, and records of proceedings.


As a result of their troubling the whole catholic church in this way – in the words of the blessed Jeremiah, ‘we have been put to shame, because we heard reproach against us; it has covered our face with reversal, because aliens have entered our sanctuary’ – for this reason we the pious, all of us, have been looking everywhere, sometimes for ‘water for the head and fountains of tears for the eyes’ for lamenting this pitiable catastrophe, and sometimes for ‘the wings of a dove’ (in the words of the divine David), so that we might ‘fly away’ and announce these things to the see that rules and presides over all others (I mean your sovereign and supreme see), in quest of healing for the wound inflicted. It has been accustomed to perform this authoritatively from the first and from of old, on the basis of its apostolic and canonical authority, for the reason, evidently, that the truly great Peter, the head of the apostles, was deemed worthy not only to be entrusted, alone out of all, with ‘the keys of the kingdom of heaven’ for both opening them deservedly to those who believe and shutting them justly to those who do not believe in the gospel of grace, but also because he was the first to be entrusted with shepherding the sheep of the whole catholic church. As the text runs, ‘Peter, do you love me? Shepherd my sheep.’ And again, because he possessed more than all others, in an exceptional and unique way, firm and unshakeable faith in our Lord, [he was deemed worthy] to turn and strengthen his comrades and spiritual brethren when they were wavering, since providentially he had been adorned by the God who became incarnate for our sake with power and priestly authority over them all. Witnessing this, Sophronius of blessed memory, who was patriarch of the holy city of Christ our God and under whom I served as a priest, not conferring at all with flesh and blood but like your most holy self caring only for the things of Christ, hastened without delay to send my nothingness, solely over this matter, to this great and apostolic see with his own appeals, explaining both in writing and orally through me your suppliant the whole innovation of the said men, which they had committed in opposition to the orthodox faith. In addition, while still alive, he in person put up a noble resistance to those in the East, charging and adjuring them to cease from their heresy and return to the pious faith of the fathers, providing in two books six centuries of patristic citations to refute their impiety and confirm the truth; he did not, however, persuade them but excited them to calumny and wicked machinations against himself. Yet he was not at all alarmed on this account, nor did he ‘fear where there is no fear’, for (says the scripture) ‘the just man is confident like a lion’, but, filled with godly eagerness and zeal, he took and placed me, despite my unworthiness, on holy Calvary, where, voluntarily on our behalf, the one who as God transcends us in nature, our Lord Jesus Christ, deigned to be crucified in the flesh. And there he bound me with unloosable bonds, saying: ‘To the God who voluntarily on our behalf was crucified in this holy place you yourself will have to render an account at his glorious and dread coming, when he will judge the living and the dead, if you ignore and overlook the danger to faith in him, even though I myself, as you know, am bodily prevented from acting by the incursion of the Saracens as a result of our sins.


Therefore proceed in haste from one end of the world to the other until you come to the apostolic see, where are the foundations of the pious doctrines, and acquaint the all-sacred men there, not once or twice but many times, with everything that has with precision been mooted here. You are not to desist from vigorous exhortation and entreaty, until with apostolic wisdom they bring their judgement to a victorious conclusion and issue canonically a total refutation of the outlandish doctrines, lest, as says the apostle, these any longer “spread like a cancer”, feeding on the souls of the more simple-minded.’ Wherefore, terrified and petrified at this because of the awesome judgement delivered by him on myself in this most awesome and venerable place, and then reflecting also on the episcopal dignity belonging to me by God’s leave, and on the petitions relating to the matter from almost all the God-loving bishops and Christ-loving congregations in the East, who in accord with the sainted Sophronius were urging me to go with this purpose as the first man in the jurisdiction of Jerusalem, I did not, to use scriptural language, ‘give sleep to my eyes and slumber to my eyelids and rest to my head’ in fulfilling this adorable command, but without any delay and solely for this purpose made the journey hither. Since then it is now the third time that I have arrived at your apostolic feet, entreating and beseeching what he and all of them have readily implored, namely, succour for the endangered faith of Christians.


On discovering that I had acted in this way, my opponents piled no slight afflictions on me, sending instructions about me through places and regions that I should be apprehended and sent to them in irons, as is known to all. But the Lord came to my assistance and rescued my life from those in pursuit of it. Therefore, as I pursued the goal and aimed at the prize of your apostolic see, God did not overlook the petition of his servants presented with tears, but stirred up to no small degree the then apostolic high priests to warn and adjure the men aforesaid, even if in the event they had no success in pacifying them. He also stirred up the one who is now the sacred president, our master Martin, the thrice-blessed pope, whom he will guard for his churches safe and sound, with a long life, ‘expounding correctly the word of truth’, so as incomparably and surpassingly to be ‘zealous with zeal for God’, and to gather all of you most sacred high priests to himself for the rejection of outlandish doctrines and the preservation of those of the fathers of the church. I too exhort and beseech you to complete the work of grace for which God has summoned you through him, so that (as the scripture says) ‘you may remove the evil one from among you’; for the divine apostle, writing to you Romans, exhorts you ‘to observe those who create scandals and divisions in opposition to the teaching you learnt and to shun them, for such people do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ but their own bellies, and by specious and fair words deceive the hearts of the innocent.’ For as you know, most blessed one, the pious faith of the fathers cannot be blunted by innovation, but is accustomed, rather, to be strengthened by apostolic orthodoxy. Wherefore, rejecting every false belief, it ‘acknowledges one and the same our Lord and God Jesus Christ in two natures hypostatically united without confusion or separation, the difference between the natures being in no way removed by the union, but rather the distinctive character of each nature being preserved and coming together into one person and one hypostasis’; and accordingly it piously proclaims him complete God by nature and complete man by nature, apart from sin alone. If then it proclaims him to be truly complete God by nature and complete man by nature, it is clear that he was in no way incomplete in the essential will and operation of either his Godhead or his manhood, but that he possessed without diminution his natural wills and operations, equal in number to his natures; it was by willing and performing what is divine and what is human by means of these that he was known to be truly both God and man. For if, as our opponents hold, he was incomplete in his divine and human will and operation according to nature, he was neither complete God nor complete man but was rather neither God nor man at all, since one who lacks divine will and operation by nature is not God by nature and likewise one who lacks human will and operation by nature is not man by nature. But he is neither incomplete God nor incomplete man, since both of Christ’s natures, from which and in which63 he is composed without confusion or separation, are acknowledged in natural completeness; and because of this he was complete by nature in each of his natures. It is therefore incumbent on us to reject these innovations and strengthen inviolably the orthodox faith of the holy fathers in the completeness of the natures that are preserved in union in Christ God and of his natural wills and operations, so as to profess that the natures, as united, of the one and the same are two, and that this is also true of his natural wills and operations, divine and human, for a total demonstration of the true completeness of each of his natures, such that there is no diminution of the essential and natural character or will and operation in either nature. For will and operation according to nature are clearly a natural property of a nature, and it is by means of them that the definition of the holy council at Chalcedon stands confirmed and preserves without diminution the mystery of Christ God. But they, in their present attempt to confuse this mystery, have now devised another evil. For Paul, the primate of Constantinople, has induced our most pious emperor to issue a Typos about the faith, and in this Typos they have cast out the teachings of the holy fathers together with the evil doctrines of accursed heretics, decreeing that neither one nor two wills and operations are to be acknowledged in Christ God, making it easy to proclaim in his case now one and now not even one, and consequently to describe him as either God alone, since possessing only a divine nature, or a mere man alone, since possessing only a human nature, or to describe him as neither God nor man, since possessing neither divine nor human will and operation but being in their view totally devoid of both will and operation. This is something that the definition of the holy fathers and of the said holy council at Chalcedon totally prohibits, teaching that the natural property of each of the natures from which and in which is Christ is perfectly preserved after the union. Yet they, in their eagerness to reject both the council and all the holy fathers, have attempted to decree and record these things against the faith. I have also to inform your holinesses that by exploiting the turmoil of the times and through lust for power they have led many in the East astray. For Sergius bishop of Joppa, usurping the role of caretaker of the see of Jerusalem after the withdrawal of the Persians, in virtue not of ecclesiastical procedure but secular power, ordained several bishops there, in contravention of the canons, as suffragans of the see of Jerusalem; {although he himself was far from having been confirmed, he presumed to ordain others}. They, being well aware in consequence that their ordination was worthless, sent in their submission by letter, assenting to the innovation championed by Bishop Paul of Constantinople, so that indeed they might be irregularly confirmed by him, which was impossible. This fact I communicated earlier to the apostolic see, namely to the sainted pope Theodore; he by an apostolic letter appointed me his representative, despite my unworthiness, and by an all-sacred instruction bade me, apart from conducting other ecclesiastical business, to carry out a canonical deposition of the bishops ordained in this way, if they proved incorrigible. This indeed I did, particularly in view of the fact that of their own accord they had deserted the truth for error; in accordance with his injunction I only approved those who submitted a declaration of repentance and professed in writing that they had always held, embraced and preached the pious doctrines of the holy fathers and councils.


These declarations I have now brought and presented to the thrice-blessed Pope Martin, who is presiding most sacredly over your holinesses, because some have been justly approved and others condemned, for the protection of the catholic church. I therefore exhort you not to overlook the numerous and urgent petitions on this head (brought with tears to your beatitude by me in my insignificance) from my lowly self, all the orthodox priests and congregations in the East, and my aforementioned master, the sainted Sophronius. But, ‘like luminaries in the world, keeping the word of life’, dispel the invading darkness of the heresy of the ill-named Apollinarius and Severus, which has been monstrously disseminated in our times by the men aforesaid, so that, once this is totally dispelled, there may rise upon us the daystar and the dogmatic definition (illuminating everyone everywhere through your most holy selves) which the illustrious fathers of the church and the holy and ecumenical five councils confirmed for us by their pious doctrines, for the sure attainment of eternal life. The subscription. I, Stephen, by God’s mercy bishop of Dora and the first man of the holy synod subject to the patriarchal see of Jerusalem, who composed the present plaint, have signed it with my own hand and presented it on Thursday, 8 October in the eighth indiction.



 

Source: Richard Price, Acts of Lateran Synod of 649, Pg. 142-149



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