Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume IV/Letters/Letters/Personal Letters/Chapter 5
Letter L.—First Letter to Lucifer.
To our lord, and most beloved brother the Bishop and Confessor Lucifer. Athanasius greeting in the Lord.
Being well in body by God’s favour, we have now sent our most beloved deacon Eutyches, that your most pious holiness, as is much desired by us, may be pleased to inform us of the safety of yourself and those with you. For we believe it is by the life of you Confessors and servants of God that the state of the Catholic Church is renewed; and that what heretics have assayed to rend in pieces, our Lord Jesus Christ by your means restores whole.
For although the forerunners of Antichrist have by the power of this world done everything to put out the lantern of truth, yet the Deity by your confession shews its light all the clearer, so that none can fail to see their deceit. Heretofore perhaps they were able to dissimulate: now they are called Antichrists. For who can but execrate them, and fly from their communion like a taint, or the poison of a serpent? The whole Church everywhere is mourning, every city groans, aged bishops are suffering in exile, and heretics dissembling, who while denying Christ have made themselves publicans, sitting in the Churches and exacting revenue. O new kind of men and of persecution which the devil has devised, namely to use such cruelty, and even ministers as the agents of evil. But although they act thus, and have gone all lengths in pride and blasphemy, yet your confession, your piety and wisdom, will be the very greatest comfort and solace to the brotherhood. For it has been reported to us that your holiness has written to Constantius Augustus; and we wonder more and more that dwelling as it were among scorpions you yet preserve freedom of spirit, in order, by advice or teaching or correction, to bring those in error to the light of truth. I ask then, and all confessors join me in asking, that you will be good enough to send us a copy; so that all may perceive, not by hearsay only but by letters, the valour of your spirit, and the confidence and firmness of your faith. Those who are with me salute your holiness. I salute all those who are with you. May the deity ever keep you safe and sound and mindful of us, most beloved lord, and true man of God.
Upon receiving this letter, blessed Lucifer sent the books which he had addressed to Constantius; and when he had read them Athanasius sent the following letter:
- Lucifer, bishop of Calaris (Cagliari) in Sardinia, exiled by Constantius after the Council of Milan (Prolegg. ch. ii. §7), first to Germanicia, then to Eleutheropolis in Palestine, at both of which places he was subjected to harsh treatment, lastly to the Thebaid. The violence of his advocacy of the Nicene faith, coupled with extreme personal abusiveness, may have aggravated his sufferings. On his part in the events of 362, see Prolegg. ch. ii. §9. The present letters exist only in Latin (Migne xxvi. 1181), and are probably a translation from the Greek. Athan. may have known Latin, but there is no evidence that he ever wrote in that language. The play on the name Lucifer in Letter 51 proves nothing to the contrary. Dr. Bright (in D.C.B. i. 198, note) expresses a doubt as to the genuineness of our letters which is I think unsupported by internal evidence. The main difficulty is in the reconciliation of the apparent references (51 init.) to the events of 356 as recent with the clear references to the de Athanasio and Moriendum pro Filio Dei of Lucifer, neither of which works were penned before 358, while the latter in its final form mentions the translation of Eudoxius to CP., and therefore falls as late as 360 (for proof of this, see Krüger, Lucifer, pp. 102–109). But on close examination, the language of Letter 51 is satisfied by the events of 359, the vindictive commission of Paul Catena and the search for Athanasius among the Monasteries (cf. Letter 53, note 1). The respectful reference to Constantius in Letter 50 is of a purely formal character. The reference to the parents of Athanasius as still living is of great interest as one of the very few notices of the family of the great bishop (Prolegg. ch. ii. §1). The agitated tone of the Epistles reminds us of the Arian History, and they may be set down to about the year 359. On Lucifer, the monograph of Krüger is the standard authority.
- An exact description of George in 357 and 358.