« Maurus, St., founder of Glanfeuil monastery Maxentius, Joannes, presbyter and archimandrite Maximianus I., M. Aurelius Valerius »

Maxentius, Joannes, presbyter and archimandrite

Maxentius (4), Joannes, presbyter and archimandrite. His monastery (Sugg. Diosc. in Labbe, iv. 1520) appears to have been situated within the jurisdiction of Paternus, bp. of Tomi (Köstendje), the capital of Scythia 707Minor (Dobrudscha), who subscribed the synodical letter of the council held at Constantinople, a.d. 520, as "Provinciae Scythiae Metropolitanus" (Labbe, iv. 1525). About 517 a controversy arose at Constantinople, in which the credit of the council of Chalcedon (a.d. 451) was considered to be seriously involved (Hormisd. epp. 15, 16 in Mansi, viii. 418 and Labbe, iv. 1454, 1455). An active part was taken by certain Scythian monks, with Maxentius as their leader, who earnestly contended for the position "unus de Trinitate in carne crucifixus est" as essential to the exclusion of the heresy of Nestorius on the one hand and of Eutyches on the other (Suggestio Dioscuri, Labbe, iv. 1513, May 13, 519; Desprez, Proleg. Fulgent. Rusp. in Migne, lxv. 109). The dispute was at its height in 519, when Germanus bp. of Capua, bp. Joannes, Blandus a presbyter, Felix and Dioscorus deacons, arrived at Constantinople from Hormisdas bp. of Rome, to negotiate a reconciliation of the two churches (Baronius, s.a. lxxxvii.). At the same time the writings of Faustus the semi-Pelagian bp. of Riez were also the subject of fierce debate at Constantinople, the Scythian monks contending that they were heretical. Among the chief antagonists of the monks were a deacon named Victor, Paternus bp. of Tomi, and other Scythian bishops (Sugg. Germ. Joann. Fel. Diosc. et Bland. in Labbe, iv. 1514). Both parties had influential supporters in the imperial court, the monks being vigorously upheld by Vitalian, then apparently in great favour with the emperor Justin, who held the office of magister militum (Evagr. H. E. iv. 3; Suggest. Diosc. u.s.), and their opponents no less so at first by Justinian, who already held high office under his uncle (Vict. Tunun. s.a. 518; Justinian, ad Hormisd. Labbe, iv. 1516). Soon after the arrival of the Roman legates at Constantinople the Scythian monks appealed for their help, and Maxentius, in their name, drew up "de Christo Professio," explanatory of their faith, which they sent with the appeal (Migne, Patr. Gk. lxxxvi. 75, 79). They protest that it is from no disrespect to the council of Chalcedon, but in its defence, that they contend for their position on the subject of the Trinity, and declare that they anathematize all who either oppose that council or hold its decisions to be imperfect. They also denounce the teaching of Pelagius and Coelestius, and the followers of Theodore of Mopsuestia, as "contradictory to that of the apostle." They further pray the papal legates to hear their accusations against Victor and Paternus (May 30, 519, Labbe, iv. 1509; Suggest. Legat. u.s. 1514, June 29, 519; Hormisd. Suggest. Diosc. et al. May 30, 519; Labbe, iv. 1519; Suggest. German. et al. June 29, 519; ib. 1514; Hormisd. Ep. 67, ad Justinian.; ib. 1518). The legates, at the urgent request of the emperor Justin and Vitalian, consented to hear the case, but without pronouncing a decision. Failing to obtain satisfaction at Constantinople, the monks determined to send four of their number, Achilles, John, Leontius, Mauritius, to lay the whole case before Hormisdas at Rome (Justinian, Ep. ad Hormisd. Labbe, iv. 1516). The four departed for the West early in May 519, and Justinian and the Roman legates duly notify their departure to Hormisdas, and pray him to reject their appeal.

Hormisdas delaying to hear the four envoys, others were sent to join them, Maxentius apparently being one. Meanwhile Justinian changed his opinion of the monks and became their advocate (Justinian. ad Hormisd.; Hormisd. Ep. 66, ad Justinian. Sept. 2, 519, u.s. 1518). The controversy seems to have involved a considerable number of the clergy of the East, especially those of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Syria Secunda (Justin. ad Hormisd. u.s. 1520, Jan. 19, 520; Deprec. et Supplic. ab Hieros. et al, u.s. 1542). An active correspondence followed between Constantinople and Rome, during which Possessor, an African bp. exiled by the Arians, wrote to Hormisdas, requesting his opinion as to the orthodoxy of the writings of Faustus and urging that Vitalian and Justinian were equally anxious to hear from Hormisdas on the subject (Possess. Ep. Afr. Relat. Labbe, iv. 1530, received at Rome July 18, 520). Shortly after the dispatch of this letter Vitalian was put to death (Procop. Hist. Arc. 6, Op. ed. Bonn, iii. 46; Vict. Tunun. s.a. 523).

The deputation at Rome, finding the Roman legates at Constantinople too strong for them, and therefore having little hope of success with Hormisdas, resolved to appeal to the African bishops then in exile in Sardinia, some of whom, as Fulgentius of Ruspe, enjoyed a high reputation for ability as well as orthodoxy. In drawing up the appeal they again appear to have employed Maxentius. It was divided into eight chapters. In the fourth they elaborately defend the position they had maintained at Constantinople. At the close of the fifth they solemnly protest their acceptance of the councils of Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon, the letters of Leo anathematizing the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius his disciple, and all writings opposed to the Twelve Chapters of the blessed Cyril against Nestorius; anathematizing in addition, Eutyches and Dioscorus (Petr. Diac. de Incarnat. et Gratis, Migne, Patrol. lxv. 442–451). This appeal was responded to by Fulgentius, bp. of Ruspe, in his well-known de Incarnatione et Gratis Domini nostri Jesu Christi, in which the exiled bishops express their hearty approval of the confession of faith which the appeal contained (Fulgent. Ep. 17, Op. u.s. 451–493). The monks, after being detained at Rome 14 months, had now returned to the East. Before they left they drew up a further protestation of their faith, which they caused to be affixed to the statues of the emperors (Hormisd. Ep., ad Possess.; Labbe, iv. 1531). This, probably, was the "contra Nestorianos capitula" of the collected works of Maxentius. The title, however, hardly corresponds to the contents, which consist of 12 anathemas, the 9th being directed against the Eutychians, and the remaining three against Pelagius and Coelestius and their followers (Migne, Patr. Gk. lxxxvi. 86).

Maxentius and his friends, having returned to Constantinople, sent a copy of the writings of Faustus of Riez to Fulgentius and the other exiles in Sardinia, requesting him and his 708brethren to send their opinion of these (ib. lxv. 145). Meanwhile Fulgentius wrote his de Veritate Praedestinationis, addressed to Joannes presbyter and Venerius deacon, two of the Scythian monks (ib. 603–671), speaking of the monks in the highest terms. On Aug. 13, 520, Hormisdas replied to the letter received from Possessor on July 18, speaking of the monks with unmeasured reproach. They are scatterers of "poison under the pretence of religion," and he writes now so that, should they return to Constantinople, they might not deceive those who did not know of their conduct at Rome. He does not, however, commit himself to any opinion as to the position "unum de Trinitate," but refers to it in very general terms, saying, "The reverend wisdom of the Fathers has defined what is Catholic doctrine . . . what need, therefore, to raise any further controversy, when the Christian faith is limited by canonical books, synodical decrees, and the constitutions of the Fathers within fixed and immovable limits?" Nor is he much more explicit as to the writings of Faustus. He says that he does not receive him nor any one not approved by the authority of the Fathers, but adds, that if he agrees with "right faith and sound teaching" he is to be admitted; if not, he is to be rejected, and concludes with telling Possessor that "although what the Roman, that is the Catholic, church follows and maintains on the subject of free-will and the grace of God may be gathered from various books of the blessed Augustine, and especially from those addressed to Hilary and to Prosper; nevertheless, there are certain special documents preserved in the ecclesiastical archives, which, if Possessor has not, and wishes to see, he will send him" (Hormisd. Ep. 70, ad Possess.; Labbe, iv. 1530, 1532). This letter was widely circulated as an encyclic, and when it came into the hands of Maxentius he at once replied to it in his ad Ep. Hormisdae Responsio, Migne, lxxvii. 94–112. The reply is in every way a remarkable document. The archimandrite refuses to believe the letter can have been written by Hormisdas, but argues that whether it was so or not, its author was "unquestionably a heretic," as he considers that to "maintain that Christ, the Son of God, is one of the Trinity is to contend about words." He also takes the writer to task for having virtually decided that, although the writings of Faustus were not authoritative, they were still to be read.

We hear nothing more of Maxentius and the Scythian monks until after Hormisdas died in Aug. 523. The encyclic of Hormisdas had now reached the exiled bishops in Sardinia, though there is no reason to believe that they had also seen the Responsio of Maxentius, and they had had ample leisure for consideration of the second appeal addressed to them from Constantinople. They accordingly met in council and sent the monks a reply in the form of a synodical letter. They acknowledge the receipt of the letter of Maxentius and his brethren, and say they rejoice that they "hold a right opinion on the grace of God, by whose light the free will of the human mind is illuminated, and by whose aid it is controlled," and express sorrow that any should question the Catholic faith on the point (c. 2). The position for which John Maxentius and his brethren contended was afterwards formally approved by a council at Rome in 532 (Labbe, iv. 1761) and elaborately defended in 534 by John II. bp. of Rome, who argued that it had always been held by Catholics in the very form used by the Scythian monks, quoting Proclus patriarch of Constantinople and others (Ep. 3 in Labbe, iv. 1751; Jaffé, Reg. Pont. 73; Pagi, Crit. s.a. 533). The council of Constantinople of 553 anathematized all who questioned it (collat. viii. anath. 10, Labbe, v. 575). Yet Baronius (s.a. 519 cii.) is unsparing in his condemnation of the monks as impugners of the Catholic faith. They have found an able defender in Cardinal Noris (Hist. Pelagiana, ii. 18, in Op. i. 474–596; esp. c. 20, pp. 498–504; Hist. Controv. de Univ. ex Trinit. passe, cc. 4–8; Op. iii. 800–854), and Pagi (Crit. s.a. 519, vi.) accepts his vindication as conclusive.

[T.W.D.]

« Maurus, St., founder of Glanfeuil monastery Maxentius, Joannes, presbyter and archimandrite Maximianus I., M. Aurelius Valerius »





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