« Prev Of the Council of Antioch and what was done there… Next »

Chapter XXVII.—Of the Council of Antioch and what was done there against the holy Meletius.

At this time,586586    a.d. 361. Constantius was residing at Antioch. The Persian war was over; there had been a time of peace, and he once again gathered bishops together with the object of making them all deny both the formula “of one substance” and also the formula “of different substance.” On the death of Leontius, Eudoxius had seized the see of Antioch, but on his expulsion and illegal establishment, after many synods, at Constantinople, the church of Antioch had been left without a shepherd. Accordingly the assembled bishops, gathered in considerable numbers from every quarter, asserted that their primary obligation was to provide a pastor for the flock and that then with him they would deliberate on matters of faith. It fell out opportunely that the divine Meletius who was ruling a certain city of Armenia587587    According to Sozomen, Sebaste; but Socrates (II. 44) makes him bishop of the Syrian Berœa. Gregory of Nyssa (Orat: In Fun: Mag: Meletii) puts on record “the sweet calm look, the radiant smile, the kind hand seconding the kind voice.” had been grieved with the insubordination of the people under his rule and was now living without occupation elsewhere. The Arian faction imagined that Meletius was of the same way of thinking as themselves, and an upholder of their doctrines. They therefore petitioned Constantius to commit to his hands the reins of the Antiochene church. Indeed in the hope of establishing their impiety there was no law that they did not fearlessly transgress; illegality was becoming the very foundation of their blasphemy; nor was this an isolated specimen of their irregular proceedings. On the other hand the maintainers of apostolic doctrine, who were perfectly well aware of the soundness of the great Meletius, and had clear knowledge of his stainless character and wealth of virtue, came to a common vote, and took measures to have their resolution written out and subscribed by all without delay. This document both parties as a bond of compromise entrusted to the safe keeping of a bishop who was a noble champion of the truth, Eusebius of Samosata. And when the great Meletius had received the imperial summons and arrived, forth to meet him came all the higher ranks of the priesthood, forth came all the other orders of the church, and the whole population of the city. There, too, were Jews and Gentiles all eager to see the great Meletius. Now the emperor had charged both Meletius and the rest who were able to speak to expound to the multitude the text “The Lord formed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old” (Prov. viii. 22. lxx), and he ordered skilled writers to take down on the spot what each man said, with the idea that in this manner their instruction would be more exact. First of all Georgius of Laodicea gave vent to his foul heresy. After him Acacius588588    On Acacius of Cæsarea vide note on page 70. At the Synod of Seleucia in 359 he started the party of the Homœans, and was deposed. In the reign of Jovian they inclined to Orthodoxy; in that of Valens to Arianism (cf. Soc. iv. 2). Acacius was a benefactor to the Public Library of Cæsarea (Hieron. Ep. ad Marcellam (141). Baronius places his death in 366. of Cæsarea propounded a doctrine 93of compromise far removed indeed from the blasphemy of the enemy, but not preserving the apostolic doctrine pure and undefiled. Then up rose the great Meletius and exhibited the unbending line of the canon of the faith, for using the truth as a carpenter does his rule he avoided excess and defect. Then the multitude broke into loud applause and besought him to give them a short summary of his teaching. Accordingly after showing three fingers, he withdrew two, left one, and uttered the memorable sentence, “In thought they are three but we speak as to one.”589589    Τρία τὰ νοουμένα, ὡς ἑνὶ δὲ διαλεγόμεθα “Tria sunt quæ intelliguntur, sed tanquam unum alloquimur.” The narrative of Sozomen (iv. 28) enables us to supply what Theodoret infelicitously omits. It was when an Arian archdeacon rudely put his hand over the bishop’s mouth that Meletius indicated the orthodox doctrine by his fingers. When the archdeacon at his wits’ end uncovered the mouth and seized the hand of the confessor, “with a loud voice he the more clearly proclaimed his doctrine.”

Against this teaching the men who had the plague of Arius in their hearts whetted their tongues, and started an ingenious slander, declaring that the divine Meletius was a Sabellian. Thus they persuaded the fickle sovereign who, like the well known Euripus,590590    The Euripus, the narrow channel between Eubœa and the mainland, changes its current during eleven days in each month, eleven to fourteen times a day. cf. Arist. Eth. N. ix. 6.3. “μεταῤρει ὥσπερ Εὔριπος.” easily shifted his current now this way and now that, and induced him to relegate Meletius to his own home.

Euzoius, an open defender of Arian tenets, was promptly promoted to his place; the very man whom, then a deacon, the great Alexander had degraded at the same time as Arius. Now the part of the people who remained sound separated from the unsound and assembled in the apostolic church which is situated in the part of the city called the Palæa.591591    cf. p. 34.

For thirty years indeed after the attack made upon the illustrious Eustathius they had gone on enduring the abomination of Arianism, in the expectation of some favourable change. But when they saw impiety on the increase, and men faithful to the apostolic doctrines both openly attacked and menaced by secret conspiracy, the divine Meletius in exile, and Euzoius the champion of heresy established as bishop in his place, they remembered the words spoken to Lot, “Escape for thy life”;592592    Gen. xix. 17 and further the law of the gospel which plainly ordains “if thy right eye offend thee pluck it out and cast it from thee.”593593    Matt. v. 29 The Lord laid down the same law about both hand and foot, and added, “It is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”

Thus came about the division of the Church.

« Prev Of the Council of Antioch and what was done there… Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection