St. Isidore of Pelusium

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Isidore of Pelusium (360-440 A.D.) was born in Egypt to a prominent Alexandrian family. He became an ascetic, and moved to a mountain near the city of Pelusium, in the tradition of the Desert Fathers.  Isidore is known to us for his letters, written to Cyril of Alexandria, Theodosius II, and a host of others. A collection of 2,000 letters was made in antiquity at the “Sleepless” monastery in Constantinople, and this has come down to us through a number of manuscripts, with each letter numbered and in order. The letters are mostly very short extracts, a sentence or two in length. Further unpublished letters exist in Syriac translation.


  • Letters

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Quotes and Excerpts:

An Anthology of Historical Sources
Volumes 1-4
Lawrence J. Johnson
Liturgical Press Collegeville, Minnesota



I.CXxII. When the bishop goes up to the church’s episcopal chair, he extends the peace, doing so in imitation of the peace Jesus left to his disciples. The people reply, “And with your spirit.” The meaning here is as follows. Lord, the peace you offered us is our unity together. Grant us peace, namely, a similar unity with you, a unity that can in no way be broken, so that we, made peaceful with your Spirit (indicated to us at creation’s beginning), may never be separated from your love.

I.cxxv. [. . .] In grave necessities and dangerous situations the saying is: “Surrounded as we are by evils, let us baptize our children as soon as possible.

I.CcxxvI. The reason why the reception of the divine sacraments is called Communion is that the sacraments join us to God and make us members and participants of his kingdom.

Just as the fishermen hide the hook with bait and covertly hook the fish, similarly, the crafty allies of the heresies cover their evil teachings and corrupt understanding with pietism and hook the more simple, bringing them to spiritual death.
-Letter to Timothy the Reader, PG, 78:252)


If you are trying to gain the kingdom of Christ — may persistence unworn away crown this –, and the prize of immortality that God gives to those who administer it honestly, blend authority with mildness and lighten yourself of the weight of wealth by the necessary dispersion of it, for a king is not saved through ample power, nor does he escape the impiety of idolatry by keeping for himself abundant wealth.


Liking cannot see far ahead, while dislike cannot see clearly. So if you wish to remedy both of these sight problems, do not spout out such vehement statements, instead be more fair in your accusations. Even God All Knowing, before his birth, thought it best out of his love for man to come down and see the boisterousness [1] of the Sodomites, teaching us a lesson in fully inquiring. Many of the people who have come to Ephesus (are) ridiculing you for acting out of personal enmity and not for the doctrine of Jesus Christ. “Here’s this nephew of Theophilus, they say, imitating his way of thinking. Like him, he falls into a rage against the God-loving John, inspired by God, and he desires ever so much to lecture, even though there is a great difference between the people (who are) deciding.”

[1] There should be a better word for this.

1106 (3.306) TO THE BISHOP CYRIL.

Just as the emperor is subject to the laws, the law having a life of its own, so a priest is subject to the laws of the Lord, the canon being untouchable. [1]

[1] The Greek actually says the canon is “apthoggos” meaning that you can’t utter any words of protest against it.

1582 (5.268) TO THE BISHOP CYRIL.

Once the hierarchy used to correct and temper the office of emperor when it stumbled and fell, but now it has fallen beneath it, losing not its own rank, instead possessing ordained men unlike those in our ancestors’ time.[1] Previously when those crowned with a holy office lived the evangelic and apostolic life, naturally the office of emperor stood in awe of the hierarchy, but now it is the hierarchy of the office of emperor. In my opinion, the office of emperor is following its natural course, since it has not intentionally meant to assault the hierarchy, which it reveres like a god, but avenge it of the assaults on it and temper the people not conducting themselves as they should toward it.

How to provide assurance to the synod

If you could personally take the time to join them in deliberating at Ephesus, I am sure that there will be no censure of you on their part. If you leave the voting to the crowd’s antipathies, who would free the synod from all of the mockery? You would also remedy the situation, if you would stop your servants from dogmatizing, since they stand uncertainly between a great chasm of serving the emperor and quarreling with God, for fear that they make waves for the empire, dashing against the rock of the Church the contrivances of their bad faith. That Church has been set up, and cannot be lorded over by the gates of Hell, as God announced when He was creating it.

On how you cannot argue with an ignorant person.

Just as it is not safe to travel through an uninhabited land with a belligerent person, so it is not very easy to have an educated conversation with an ignorant person. The former will unleash his full force on you when you are alone if something is said or done not to his liking, while the latter, unless everything said is dumbed down to his lack of education, will single out for disgrace and ridicule everyone intelligent in the world, including learned philosophers and virtue-loving men. Frequently, people’s lack of letters tends to spread and at the current time you will find it preeminent everywhere. Even the Church is not without its share of it as well as the State and even the empire itself cannot be governed without it. Because of this, our troubles grow and the spirit of slavery has taken hold through the empire. So be very patient with the unlearned person, because you gladly abstain from the mindless, being mindful of our Lord.

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