« Serapion, solitary of Scete Serapion, bp. of Heraclea Serenus, a solitary »

Serapion, bp. of Heraclea

Serapion (16), bp. of Heraclea, an Egyptian by birth, ordained deacon by Chrysostom (Socr. H. E. vi. 4), and by him made archdeacon of the church of Constantinople (Soz. H. E. viii. 9). His character as drawn by contemporary historians is most unfavourable. Presuming on his official power, he treated others with contempt and exhibited an intolerable arrogance (Socr. H.E. vi. 11; 890Soz. u.s.). His unbounded influence over Chrysostom tended continually to widen the breach between the bishop and his clergy which the stern line of action originally adopted at Serapion's instance had opened early in his episcopate. Socrates records, as a characteristic speech, that Chrysostom, having vainly endeavoured to enforce his strict notions of discipline on his worldly and luxurious clergy, Serapion exclaimed in their hearing, "You will never be able to master these men, bishop, unless you drive them all with one rod" (Socr. H. E. vi. 4). Chrysostom mistakenly regarded Serapion's harshness as proof of his holy zeal (ib. vi. 17).

On Chrysostom's leaving Constantinople early in 401 to regulate the affairs of the church of Asia, he deputed SEVERIAN, bp. of Gabala, to act as his commissary, but the real management of the diocese and its clergy was left to Serapion. Severian was ambitious and devoid of a high sense of honour, and Serapion had soon to report, probably with exaggerations, that he was undermining Chrysostom's influence with the court and aristocracy, and seeking to outdo him as a preacher. Chrysostom hastened back to Constantinople, and Serapion greeted him with the astounding intelligence that Severian had denied the Incarnation. The grounds of this charge were the following: Serapion having ostentatiously refused to rise to pay Severian as he passed the accustomed homage of a deacon to a bishop, with the express intention, declared to the clergy around, of shewing "how much he despised the man." Severian, at this studied insult, indignantly exclaimed, "If Serapion dies a Christian, then Jesus Christ was not incarnate." Serapion repeated the latter clause alone, and delated Severian as a denier of the chief article of the Christian faith. The report was confirmed by bystanders and readily credited by Chrysostom, who expelled Severian from the city as a blasphemer (Soz. H. E. viii. 10; Socr H. E. vi. 11). An account favourable to Serapion is found in a fragment (unwarrantably embodied in some Eng. translations of Socrates's Hist.) printed as an appendix to Socr. vi. ii. According to this, Serapion's act of disrespect was brought before a synod, which, on Serapion affirming on oath that he had not seen Severian pass, acquitted him of intentional rudeness, while Chrysostom, hoping to soothe Severian's ruffled feelings, suspended Serapion from his ecclesiastical functions for a short time. Severian, however, insisted on his deposition and excommunication. Chrysostom, annoyed at his pertinacity, quitted the synod, leaving the decision to the bishops, by whom his mild sentence was immediately confirmed. Chrysostom then broke off all intimacy with Severian and recommended him to return to his own diocese, which he had neglected too long. For the remainder of this unhappy transaction see SEVERIANUS (2). Chrysostom rewarded the supposed fidelity of Serapion by raising him to the priesthood, and returning from the brief expulsion which followed the synod of the Oak, gave Serapion the metropolitan see of Heraclea in Thrace (ib. 17). On Chrysostom's second and final banishment Serapion, taking refuge in a convent of Gothic monks known as the Marsi (Chrys. Ep. 14), was discovered, dragged from his hiding-place brought before Chrysostom's enemies, deposed from his bishopric, banished to Egypt, and left at the mercy of the patriarch Theophilus (Pallad. p. 195 ; Soz. H. E. viii. 9).

[E.V.]

« Serapion, solitary of Scete Serapion, bp. of Heraclea Serenus, a solitary »





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