To Theoctistus, Bishop of Berœa.
Our Saviour, Lawgiver, and Lord, was once asked,
What is the first commandment? His reply was
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And He added
This is the first commandment: and the second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. Then He said further
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
He then who keeps these, according to the definition of the Lord, plainly fulfils the Law; and he who transgresses them is guilty of transgressing the whole Law. Let us then examine, before the exact and righteous tribunal of our conscience, whether we have fulfilled the divine commandments. Now the first is kept by him who guards the faith given by God in its integrity, who abominates its assailants as enemies of the truth and hates heartily all those who hate the beloved; and the second by him who most highly esteems the care of his neighbour and who, not only in prosperity but also in apparent misfortunes, observes the laws of friendship. They, on the other hand, who look after their own safety, as they suppose, who on its account make little of the laws of friendship and take no heed of their friends when assaulted and attacked, are reckoned to belong to the number of the wicked and of them that are without. The Lord of all requires better things at the hands of His disciples.
Love He says
your enemies, for if you love them which love you, what reward will you have? For the sinners and the publicans do this. I, however, have not received even such kindness as publicans receive. Publicans, do I say? I have not even received the consolation given to murderers and wizards in their dungeons. If every one had imitated this cruelty, nothing else would have been left then for me in my life time but to be wasted by want, and, at my death, instead of being committed to a tomb, to be made meat for dogs and wild beasts. But I have found support in those who care nought for this present life, but await the enjoyment of everlasting blessings, and these furnish me with manifold consolation. But the loving Lord
caused judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still, when God arose to judgment. But the wicked shall perish. The falsehood of the new heresy has been proscribed, and the truth of the divine Gospels is publicly proclaimed. I for my part exclaim with the blessed David,
Source. Translated by Blomfield Jackson. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1892.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2707134.htm>.
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