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A.A.Vaschalde, Three Letters of Philoxenus (1902). pp. 118-.... Letter to the Emperor Zeno.


||163| The letter of Mär Aksenäyä to Emperor Zeno 
on the embodiment and incarnation of God the Word.

O Christ-loving Zeno, Emperor, concerning the embodiment (methgassemänüthä) and the humanifying (methbarnesa-nüthä) (1) of God the Word, Who is consubstantial with God the Father, and was begotten by Him before ages and worlds, Who is always God and near (2) God, Who is God the Word, because He was begotten by Him without passion (3) and with Him is not subject to time, we have learned, we believe, and we have received from tradition as follows: that He (God the Word) emptied Himself (4) and came into the womb of the Virgin, without leaving the Father, without separating Himself from Him with Whom, near Whom, and like unto Whom He always is. For we believe that, in so far as He is God, He is everywhere, that is, like the Father and like the Holy Ghost. |119 

He wished to give life to men by His abasement, His embodiment, His passion, His death, and His resurrection. And He came to the Virgin without ceasing to be everywhere, and He was embodied in her and of her, and became man without change. ||164| For He did not bring to Himself a body from heaven as the foolish Valentinus and Bardesanes assert; nor was His embodiment from nothing, because He did not wish to redeem a creature that did not exist, but He wished to renew that which, created by Him, had become old (5).

We do not hold that (the Word) became man with a change in His nature, because God is not capable of change, change being a modification of things created; but, as He exists without having begun, so also He was not changed by becoming (man). For He became man by taking a body, and not by assuming a man whom He caused to adhere to His person; otherwise, we would be introducing an addition into the Trinity, and would be found to admit a son of grace, outside the Son of nature. Therefore, whilst adoring this God the Word, Who is the Only Begotten Son of the Father, I believe that He was really embodied, and was born of the Holy Virgin, for He, Whom she brought forth, has become (man) and has been embodied in her and of her. She did not bring Him forth spiritually, since (the Word) has His spiritual generation from the Father, and He did not become (man) as He was begotten by the Father, according to the order of the (divine) nature and of the essential generation. But the Virgin brought Him forth corporally in order that, through this corporal generation, we might be made worthy of the spiritual (generation). The Word, therefore, became something that He was not and remained something that we were not (but became), that is, sous of God, yet ||165| remaining what we were by nature. For we became sons of God. although our nature |120 was not changed, and He became man by His mercy, although His essence was not changed.

I confess, therefore, one (only) person of the Word, and I believe that this same (person) is also man, that is, God Who became man; not that He dwelt in a man, not that He built to Himself a temple in which He dwelt. It is we who are His temples, and He dwells in us by His Spirit. He did not create a man in the Virgin before He dwelt in her, a man whom He afterwards assumed as another person; for, by His embodiment from the Virgin, He did not unite Himself to the person of a man, but to our nature. I do not acknowledge in the Virgin a man adhering to God, nor a person joined to another; but I see, with the eye of faith, a Spiritual Being, Who, without change, became corporal, and Mary brought forth, not a double (Son), as Nestorius said, but the Only-Begotten embodied, Who is not indeed half God and half man, but wholly God because He is from the Father, and wholly man because He became (man) of the Virgin.

I confess that there was a union of the natures, that is, (a union of) the divinity and the humanity, and I divide neither the natures nor the persons, nor the parts of this and that, ||166| which have been united in an ineffable manner. I do not see two things where they became one, nor do I admit one where two are known to be. It is not true that a man was made, was considered independent (6), and then assumed by God; if we say this, we do not confess that corporeity belongs to God. If on the contrary we believe that the body belongs to Him, because He was made man, then corporeity is the property of the person of God, and not of another human person. For the body of each one of us does not belong to God, although we are the sons of the Father and the brothers of Christ; and likewise (the body) |121 of that man, whether you consider it from the point of view of the person, or of the nature only, cannot be regarded as belonging to God; therefore, it is not true that a body was created, was acknowledged as belonging to another (person), and was then taken by God and made His.

With John I cry out that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (7), not by changing, God forbid! for «to change» is a modification, but «to become» belongs to the Economy (of the Word). For I learn from John and Paul that (the Word) has become; but that He was changed, none of those who saw and served the Word (ever) said. Besides, God the Word Himself teaches by His prophet, «I am the Lord, and I change not» (8). Where you would suppose that, by becoming embodied. He was changed, He testifies all the more to the truth of His own ||167| immutability, and as if (already) embodied from the Virgin, He cries out to those who think that perhaps He was changed by becoming (man), «I am the Lord, and I change not». Of the one Son, therefore, are the two generations, the one from the Father and the other from the Virgin; of the one Son, and not of two natures, otherwise He would not be one. For if we admit (in Him) nature and nature, we must necessarily admit person and person, and consequently we must acknowledge two Sons and two Gods.

The person of the Son, therefore, became embodied by the will of the Father and of the Holy Ghost, and His embodiment does not exclude that He may be believed consubstantial with them, for He was begotten Son (by the Father) and He was born Son of (the Virgin). The Father had no corporal generation, because He is always Father; nor had the Holy Ghost, because He did not come from the Father as Son in order to become the Son of the Virgin. But that One was born, |122 Who was begotten, that is, the Son. And we believe that the Same is Son by two generations, and that He, to Whom belong the name and fact of Son from the Father, became truly the Son of the Virgin; for to Him indeed belong these two things «to become and to be born», and because He was Son,

He was born Son, that is, in becoming ||168| man without changing. And since we hear from the Books that one person was embodied, that the same (person) was born, and is the Only Begotten of the Father and the Firstborn of the Virgin, we must believe that He is known (as such) even in all the humiliations and defects to which humanity is liable.

We confess, therefore, that the Virgin is qeoto&koj (yäldath 'alähä), and we believe that the embodied Word, after being born of her corporally, was wrapped in swaddling clothes, sucked milk, received circumcision, was held on (His Mother's) knees, grew in stature and was subject to His parents, all this just as He was born. He did not need to be fed Who feeds (others), since He is known (to be) God, but He became subject to all this because He was made man, although perfect and complete in His nature and in His person. It is then only in so far as He became (man) that He grew. To Him belongs greatness by His nature; and humiliation, because He emptied Himself. The things of the Father are His, because He has the same essence; and ours are His, because He became like unto us. To Him honor, because He is the Lord of glory; to Him humiliation, because He revealed Himself in the flesh. His the fact that He was hungry, and His the fact that He multiplied bread. He was hungry, and (thereby) showed that He became like unto us; He fed the hungry, and (thereby) showed that the power remains to Him. For His nature was not ||169| changed when He became (man), nor was the strength of His power diminished.

He was baptized by John in the Jordan (9), and the Father |123 testified that He is His Beloved Son. I recognize the Trinity in the Jordan: the Father Who speaks; the Son Who is baptized; and the Holy Ghost Who shows. The Son was baptized as man, and not in appearance, because the appearance of the dove belongs to the Holy Ghost, and the appearance of the humanity (10) belongs to the Father; but, with the Son, it is the reality of corporeity. The One Whom I have seen in baptism, I have acknowledged in the womb (of the Virgin), and the One Whom I have found in the womb, I contemplate stretched on the Cross. One of the Trinity was in the womb; one of the Trinity in baptism; one of the Trinity on the Cross.

We believe in one Son, in one Father, and in one Spirit. For there is no other Son than the one Who is adored in the Trinity, Who accomplished the Economy for us, and was crucified between thieves. For He, at Whose baptism the Father testified, «This is My Beloved Son» (11), is the Same Who cried out on the Cross, «Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit» (12). Since He calls God «His Father», it is certain that He is His Son. For He Who, as man, was stretched on the Cross, is the Same Who (at that very time) was ruling, as God, all creatures by His nod, because the source of His natural life was not broken by death. ||170| For if we believe that, conceived as man, He is God, we must necessarily admit that, enclosed as dead in School, He is Life from Life, lest, because He became (man), His essence be considered as having changed, and lest we believe that by death the life of His nature was destroyed.

The Cross is the herald of the death and of the immortality of God; for, until then, we believed by hearing (13) that God |124 is immortal; but, on the Cross, experience has shown (that) both (were true), for, whilst tasting death, He remained living. Death could not attack and destroy His life; but, by His death, the power of death was destroyed, so that this death (of the Son), after His becoming (man), is a miracle. For He Who suffered death for us was not mortal as one of us, otherwise the power of death over mortals would not have been destroyed. From all men we know that what is mortal shall die; but, that tho Immortal be considered as having died corporally, was something new which took place once on the Cross.

Thus the immortality of God does not prevent us from believing in His death, nor does His death oblige us to deny His immortality. God was tried by death, and thereby He destroyed the power of death over all the children of men. As spirits cannot die, He did not die spiritually; ||171| besides, His nature is immortal. But, since the body is subject to the power of death, Pie was tried by death corporally. For there was not (in Christ) a body adhering to God, nor was there (in Him) a man as His temple, who was dissolved, and was raised up by the Word Who dwelt in him, as heretics imagine. But He Who was dissolved as man, the Same, as God, raised up (His own body). The Father also raised Him, according to the words of Paul, «God, His Father, Who hath raised Him from the dead» (14). The Holy Ghost also raised Him, for (Paul says again): «He (Christ) was known to be the Son of God by power, and by the Holy Ghost according to the resurrection from the dead» (15). He also raised Himself, as He said: «I have power over My soul to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again» (16). For the divinity did not leave the body (of Christ), when He cried out on |125 the Cross, «Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit» (17). And it is not a man that said to the Father, «My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?» (18); but He called Him «His Father» because He is consubstantial with Him, and «His God», because He became man. For He Who was suspended on the Cross, by commending His Spirit into the hands of His Father, gave to the souls of men a relationship with the Father, and the Same, with His body, descended into Scheol, and prepare the resurrection of the bodies that were there.

We do not therefore subject the nature of the Word to passion; nor do we believe that a man distinct from Him died. But we believe that He Who, as God, is above ||172| death, experienced it as man. (We believe) that He is the Only Begotten Son, one of the Trinity, as is clear from His own words to His disciples: «Go ye forth, teach all nations, and baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Sou, and of the Holy Ghost» (19).

I was baptized, therefore, in the name of Him Who died, and I confess that He, in Whose name I was baptized, died for me, and I believe that I have put on in baptism Him in Whose name and in Whose death I was baptized, according to the words of Paul (20). For I have put on spiritually in the waters (of baptism) the Spiritual Being Who became corporal, and I confess that the Living One Who, experienced death in the flesh, is He Who raises (the dead) and gives life; thus not taking anything from the Trinity, as the foolish Sabellius and Photinus have thought (to do), nor dividing its persons, like Arius and Macedonius, nor adding another person to the Trinity, as Theodore and Nestorius have imagined, nor saying that one of its persons suffered a change, like Apollinaris and Eutyches. |126 

Therefore, I say anathema to the impious Nestorius and to his doctrine, which, in the one Christ, admits a distinction of natures and of persons, attributing the miracles to God and the sufferings to the man, denying openly the Economy ||173| of the Word Who was made man.

I also say anathema to Eutyches the heretic, and to his followers, because he denies that there was a real embodiment of God from the Virgin, and regards as hallucinations the mysteries of His corporeity.

In saying anathema to these doctrines, I agree with the Holy Books, and adhere to the tradition of the Fathers from whom I have received the true and apostolic faith, that faith by which I have been made worthy, with all the baptized, of life, of freedom, and of adoption.

I have written these few lines, O pious Emperor, and have sent them to Your Christianity, because you have ordered it, to confound the heretics who question my faith in Christ, and also to edify those who think as I do, and who, made bold by divine love, try to defend me. |127 

[Footnotes renumbered and placed at the end]

1. (1) As Incarnation does not render exactly the two Syriac words here, I have translated methgassemänüthä by «embodiment», and methbarne-sänüthä by «humanifying». These seem to be the English equivalents.

2. (2) [Syriac], apud.

3. (3) This word is taken here in its widest sense, as meaning a change or modification of any kind.

4. (4) Philippians. ii, 7.

5. (1) Cf. p. 97.

6. (1) Sui juris, complete; literally «to his own count».

7. (1) St. JOHN, i, 14.

8. (2) MALACHIAS, III, 6.

9. (1) St. LUKE, iii, 21-22.

10. (1) The voice that was heard. 

11. (2) St. MATTHEW, iii, 17. 

12. (3) St. LUKE, xxiii, 40.

13. (4) Ex auditu. Cf. Romans, x, 17.

14. (1) Galatians, i, 1. 

15. (2) Romans, i, 4. 

16. (3) St. JOHN, x, 18.

17. (1) St. LUKE, xxiii, 46. 

18. (2) St, MARK, xv, 34. 

19. (3) St. MATTHEW, xxviii, 19. 

20. (4) Cf. Galatians. iii. 27.

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