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Chapter VIII.—The council assembled at Constantinople.
At this time the recent feeder of the flock at Nazianzus832832 “Cave credas episcopum Nazianzi his verbis designari,” says Valesius;—because before 381 the great Gregory of Nazianzus had at the most first helped his father in looking after the church at Nazianzus, and on his father’s death taken temporary and apparently informal charge of the see. But in the latter part of his note Valesius suggests that τὰ τελευταῖα may refer to the episcopate of Gregory at Nazianzus in his last days, after his abdication of the see of Constantinople,—“Atque hic sensus magis placet, magis enim convenire videtur verbis Theodoreti;” “Recent feeder,” then, or “he who most recently fed,” will mean “he who after the events at Constantinople which I am about to relate, acted as bishop of Nazianzus.” Gregory left Constantinople in June 381, repaired to Nazianzus, and after finding a suitable man to occupy the see, retired to Arianzus, but was pressed to return and take a leading post in order to check Apollinarian heretics. His health broke down, and he wished to retire. He would have voted in the election of his successor, but his opponents objected on the ground that he either was bishop of Nazianzus, or not; if he was, there was no vacancy; if he was not, he had no vote. Eulalius was chosen in 383, and Gregory spent six weary years in wanderings and troubles, and at last found in rest in 389. was living at Constantino136ple,833833 It was probably in 379 that Gregory first went to Constantinople and preached in a private house which was to him a “Shiloh, where the ark rested, an Anastasia, a place of resurrection” (Orat. 42. 6). Hence the name “Anastasia” given to the famous church built on the site of the too strait house. continually withstanding the blasphemies of the Arians, watering the holy people with the teaching of the Gospel, catching wanderers outside the flock and removing them from poisonous pasture. So that flock once small he made a great one. When the divine Meletius saw him, knowing as he did full well the object which the makers of the canon834834 i.e. the xvth of Nicæa, forbidding any bishop, presbyter or deacon, to pass from one city to another. Gregory himself classes it among “Νόμους πάλαι τεθνηκότας” (Carm. 1810–11). had before them when, with the view of preventing the possibility of ambitious efforts, they forbade the translation of bishops, he confirmed Gregory in the episcopate of Constantinople.835835 Gregory had been practically acting as bishop, when an intriguing party led by Peter of Alexandria tried to force Maximus, a cynic professor, who was one of Gregory’s admiring hearers, on the Constantinopolitan Church. “At this time,” i.e. probably in the middle of 380, and certainly before Nov. 24, when Theodosius entered the capital, “A priest from Thasco had come to Constantinople with a large sum of money to buy Proconnesian marble for a church. He too was beguiled by the specious hope held out to him. Maximus and his party thus gained the power of purchasing the service of a mob, which was as forward to attack Gregory as it had been to praise him. It was night, and the bishop was ill in bed, when Maximus with his followers went to the church to be consecrated by five suffragans who had been sent from Alexandria for the purpose. Day began to dawn while they were till preparing for the consecration. They had but half finished the tonsure of the cynic philosopher, who wore the flowing hair common to his sect, when a mob, excited by the sudden news, rushed in upon them, and drove them from the church. They retired to a flute player’s shop to complete their work, and Maximus, compelled to flee from Constantinople, went to Thessalonica with the hope of gaining over Theodosius himself.” Archdeacon Watkins. Dict. Christ. Biog. ii. 752. Shortly afterwards the divine Meletius passed away to the life that knows no pain, crowned by the praises of the funeral eloquence of all the great orators.
Timotheus, bishop of Alexandria,
who had followed Peter, the successor of Athanasius in the
patriarchate, ordained in place of the admirable Gregorius,
Maximus—a cynic who had but recently suffered his cynic’s
hair to be shorn, and had been carried away by the flimsy rhetoric of
Apollinarius. But this absurdity was beyond the endurance of the
assembled bishops—admirable men, and full of divine zeal and
wisdom, such as Helladius, successor of the great Basil, Gregorius and
Peter, brothers of Basil, and Amphilochius from Lycaonia, Optimus from
Pisidia, Diodorus from Cilicia.836836 Helladius, successor of Basil at the Cappadocian Cæsarea, was
orthodox, but on important occasions clashed unhappily with each of the
two great Gregories of Nyssa and Nazianzus.
On Gregorius of Nyssa and Petrus his brother, vide page 129. Amphilochius, vide note on page 114. Optimus, vide note on page 129. Diodorus, vide note on pages 85, 126 and 133.
The council was also attended by Pelagius of Laodicæa,837837 cf. note on Chap. iv. 12, page 115. Eulogius of Edessa,838838 cf. note on iv. 15, page 119. Acacius,839839 Of Berœa, vide page 128. our own Isidorus,840840 i.e. of Cyrus, cf. p. 134. Cyril of Jerusalem, Gelasius of Cæsarea in Palestine,841841 For fragments of his writings vide Dial. i. and iii. who was renowned alike for lore and life and many other athletes of virtue.
All these then whom I have named separated themselves from the Egyptians and celebrated divine service with the great Gregory. But he himself implored them, assembled as they were to promote harmony, to subordinate all question of wrong to an individual to the promotion of agreement with one another. “For,” said he, “I shall be released from many cares and once more lead the quiet life I hold so dear; while you, after your long and painful warfare, will obtain the longed for peace. What can be more absurd than for men who have just escaped the weapons of their enemies to waste their own strength in wounding one another; by so doing we shall be a laughing stock to our opponents. Find then some worthy man of sense, able to sustain heavy responsibilities and discharge them well, and make him bishop.” The excellent pastors moved by these counsels appointed as bishop of that mighty city a man of noble birth and distinguished for every kind of virtue as well as for the splendour of his ancestry, by name Nectarius. Maximus, as having participated in the insanity of Apollinarius, they stripped of his episcopal rank and rejected. They next enacted canons concerning the good government of the church, and published a confirmation of the faith set forth at Nicæa. Then they returned each to his own country. Next summer the greater number of them assembled again in the same city, summoned once more by the needs of the church, and received a synodical letter from the bishops of the west inviting them to come to Rome, where a great synod was being assembled. They begged however to be excused from travelling thus far abroad; their doing so, they said, would be useless. They wrote however both to point out the storm which had risen against the churches, and to hint at the carelessness with which the western bishops had treated it. They also included in their letter a summary of the apostolic doctrine, but the boldness and wisdom of their expressions will be more clearly shown by the letter itself.
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