Letter of Auxentius On Bishop Ulfilas

This letter, preserved by Maximinus in the margin of a manuscript of Ambrose’s De Fide, provides a firsthand account of the life, ministry, and theology of Ulfilas, Homoian Bishop of the Goths, written by his own adopted Son, Auxentius of Durostorum.

Auxentius of Durostorum on Wulfila:

Now the letter declares that the aforementioned bishops, along with Bishop Wulfila had proceeded to the East to the court of Theodosius, the emperor …

… [Wulfila was] of great propriety, verily a confessor of Christ, a teacher of piety and a preacher of truth. He never hesitated to preach quite openly and very clearly to willing and unwilling alike the one true God, the Father of Christ, and the second rank of this same Christ, knowing this one true God to be alone unbegotten, without beginning, without end, eternal, exalted, sublime, excellent, most high creator, epitome of all excellence, better than all good, infinite, uncontainable, invisible, immense, immortal, incorruptible, incommunicable, an incorporeal being, uncomposite, simple, immutable, undivided, immovable, lacking in nothing, inaccessible, undivided, not subject to rule, uncreated, unmade, perfect in singular existence, incomparably greater and better than all. Who being alone, not to the division or diminution of His divinity, but to the display of His goodness and power, by His will and power alone, passionless Himself impassible, indestructibly Himself indestructible, and immovably Himself unmoved, did create and beget, make and establish the only-begotten God.

He never concealed that, according to the authority and tradition of the Holy scriptures, this second God and Author of all things existed from the Father, after the Father, for the Father, and for the glory of the Father; rather he always set forth according to the Blessed Gospels that He was both great God and great Lord and great King, and great Mystery, great Light and great Pontifex, the Lord who is Provider and Law-giver, Redeemer, Savior… born before all ages, Creator of all creation, just Judge of the quick and the dead, having a greater God, His Father, for he (Wulfila) despised and trampled on the odious and abominable, depraved and perverse confession of the Homoousians as a devilish invention and doctrine of demons. He himself knowing and handing down to us that, if the indefatigable power of the only-begotten God is reliably said to be capable of having made all things celestial and terrestrial, invisible and visible, and is believed rightly and faithfully by us Christians, why is it not believed that the passionless power of God the Father might create His only-begotten Son? But he also deplored and shunned the error and impiety of the Homoiousians, being himself most carefully instructed out of the Holy Scriptures, and confirmed earnestly therein in many councils of saintly bishops, as he spread abroad by his sermons and tracts, the difference of divinity between the Father and the Son, between the unbegotten and the only-begotten God, that the Father was Creator of the Creator, that the Son was truly Creator of all creation; and the Father was the God of the Lord, that the Son was then God of all creation.

Wherefore he scattered the sect of the Homoousians, because he believed not in confused and compounded persons, but in discrete and distinct ones. The Homoiousians, however, he put to flight, because he passionately defended the idea that They are not comparable things, but different from one another. The Son is like the Father, and not according to the fraudulent Macedonian depravities and perversities contrary to the Scriptures, but according to the Divine Scriptures and traditions.

In his preaching and exposition he asserted that all heretics were not Christians, but Antichrists; not pious, but impious; not religious, but irreligious; not timid but bold; not in hope but without hope; not worshipers of God, but without God, not teachers, but seducers; not preachers, but liars; be they Manichaeans, Marcinonists, Montanists, Paulinians, Sabellians, Antropians, Patripassians, Photinians, Novatians, Donatists, Homoousians, Homoiousians, and Macedonians. Verily, as an imitator of the apostles and an imitator of the Martyrs, his work repelled the false doctrine of the heretics and edified the people of God, put to flight the hungry wolves and evil dogs and preserved the flock of Christ by His grace as a good shepherd with all prudence and diligence.

He also subscribed to the concept that the Holy Ghost was neither Father nor Son, but created by the Father through the Son before all things, that he is not first nor second, but placed by the first through the second in third rank; that he is not unbegotten nor begotten, but created by the Unbegotten through the Begotten in the third rank, according to the evangelical preaching and apostolic tradition of St. John, who says: “All things were made by Him and without Him not any thing was made;” (John 1.1) and by blessed Paul who asserted: “[there is] but one God the Father, of whom are all things … and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things are.” (1 Cor. 8.6)

For since there exists one unbegotten God, and there subsists one Lord the only-begotten God, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, can neither be said to be God nor Lord, but is fixed by God through the Lord to be: not the creator nor the author; but the illuminator and sanctifier, teacher and leader, helper and postulant, … and informer, minister of Christ and dispenser of grace, the pledge we have been sealed with for the day of redemption, without whom no one can say that Jesus is the Lord, as the apostle says: “No one can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12.3) and as Christ says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14.6)

Therefore, they are Christians who worship Christ in the spirit and the truth … and through Christ with love offer thanks to God the Father.

Following this and similar doctrines for 40 years flourishing splendidly in the bishopric through apostolic grace, he preached in the Greek, Latin, and Gothic tongues without ceasing in the one and only Church of Christ; because the Church of the Living God is one, the pillar and column of Truth; and he affirmed and witnessed that the flock of Christ, our Lord and God, was one, one the worship and one the house; one the Virgin, one the Spouse, one the Queen; that there was only one vine, temple, congregation of the Christians; that all other places of congregation were not Churches of God, but Synagogues of Satan.

And whoever reads this, let him know that he taught and expounded to us all this concerning the Sacred Scriptures. He also left behind in those very three languages several treatises and many interpretations, for the use and edification of the willing, for his own eternal memory and grace.

Whom I am unable to praise sufficiently; yet I cannot be silent, who more than all others am in his debt, in that he worked more richly on me, taking me in early years from my parents as his student, he taught me the Holy Scriptures and made manifest to me the truth. And by the kindness of God and the grace of Christ he reared me bodily and spiritually as a son in the faith.

According to God’s providence and Christ’s kindness he was ordained — for the salvation of many — bishop among the people of the Goths at the age of 30 from the position of lector, so that he might not only be heir of God and co-heir of Christ, but through the grace of Christ also an imitator of Christ and His Saints, in that the holy David was set as King and Prophet at the age of thirty in order to both lead and teach the people of God and the children of Israel, so also this blessed man was revealed as it were as a prophet and set as a priest of Christ, in order to lead and better the people of the Goths, to teach them and edify them, and according to the will of God and with the help of Christ this was fulfilled through his activity (ministry) in a remarkable manner. And just as Joseph was made manifest (as God’s minister) in Egypt at the age of thirty … and as the Son of God, our Lord and God Jesus Christ, was constituted at the age of thirty according to the flesh and baptized and began to preach the Gospel and to feed the souls of men, so did this Saint upon the command of Christ himself and His direction better and teach the people of the Goths, who were living in hunger and deprivation of preaching indifferently; he made manifest to them and taught them to live in accord with the rule of the Gospel, the Apostles and the Prophets, and as Christians to be truly Christians, and thus increased the number of Christians.

At which point by the envy and the machinations of the Enemy (Satan) a persecution of the Christians in the countries of the barbarians (trans-Danubian Goths) was set in motion with tyrannic terror by the godless and blasphemous chief of the Goths, so that Satan, who wanted to do evil, did good against his will; he wanted to make sinners and apostates of them; but with Christ’s aid and help, they became martyrs and confessors, that the persecutor might be confounded and those who suffered persecution be crowned. He who sought to conquer, blushed as vanquished, and they who were tempted rejoiced as victors.

Then after the glorious martyrdom of many servants and handmaidens of Christ, the most holy man, the blessed Ulfilas, having completed seven years in the office of bishop, was driven out by the vehemently threatening persecution from the country of the barbarians with a great host of confessors onto Roman soil and here honorably received by the Prince Constantius, of blessed memory. Just as God freed His people through Moses from the power and might of Pharaoh and the Egyptians and caused them to walk through the sea, and provided for his Own service, just so did God free the Goths through the often named confessor of his Holy Only-begotten Son out of the lands of the barbarians and cause them to cross the Danube and to serve Him in the mountains according to the example of the saints.

Remaining with his people, not counting those 7 years, 33 years on Roman soil, he preached the truth — just as he was also an imitator of certain ancient Saints in this matter too — he completed a space of 40 years, so that he left this life at the age of 70 after the completion of many deeds.

After 40 years had been completed, he departed at the imperial behest to Constantinople to a disputation against the Pneumatachi, and he insisted on going, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that they might not teach and infest the churches of Christ dedicated by him to Christ. … Having entered into the above city, he immediately began to fall ill, since the impious ones had again reconsidered the situation of the council, so that the more to be pitied as miserable might not be shown to be condemned by their own judgement and be shown to be punishable by the eternal judgement. In which sickness he was taken away in the manner of the Prophet Elisha.

It is now fitting to consider the merit of the man, who went by the leadership of the Lord to Constantinople, nay Christianople, where the holy and unspotted priest of Christ might receive such wondrous and splendid honors from the saints and his fellow priests, the worthy one from worthy ones worthily in such a multitude of Christians. And he, moreover, at his leave-taking, at the very moment of his death, left through his testament a statement of his faith for the people committed to him, saying thus:

I, Wulfila, Bishop and Confessor, have always believed thus, and in this sole and true faith I make my journey to my Lord:

I believe that there is only one God, the Father, alone unbegotten and invisible, and in His only-begotten Son, our Lord and God, creator and maker of all things, not having any like unto Him. Therefore there is one God of all, who is also God of our God. And I believe in one Holy Spirit, an enlightening and sanctifying power. As Christ says after the resurrection to his Apostles: “Behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24.49) And again: “And ye shall receive power coming upon you by the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1.8) Neither God nor Lord, but the faithful minister of Christ; not equal, but subject and obedient in all things to the Son. And I believe the Son to be subject and obedient in all things to God the Father.

Based on translations by Jim Marchand and R.P.C. Hanson, and the latin text available here.