Topic:Early Church Fathers/Fathers and Councils of the Church/Ante-Nicene Fathers/The Great Synodical Period

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Fathers and Councils of the Church
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In the development of doctrine, the Nicene and post-Nicene age is second in productiveness and importance only to those of the apostles and of the reformation. It is the classical period for the objective fundamental dogmas, which constitute the ecumenical or old Catholic confession of faith. The Greek Church produced the symbolical definition of the orthodox view of the holy Trinity and the person of Christ, while the Latin Church made considerable advance with the anthropological and salvation doctrines of sin and grace. The fourth and fifth centuries produced the greatest church fathers, Athanasius and Chrysostom in the East, Jerome and Augustine in the West. All learning and science now came into the service of the church, and all classes of society, from the emperor to the artisan, took the liveliest, even a passionate interest in theological controversies. For the first time ecumenical councils would be held in which the Church of the entire Roman empire was represented and was able to fix its articles of faith in an authoritative way.


This Council was the first to be that condemned Arius, then parish priest of the section of Alexandria known as Baucalis. After his condemnation Arius withdrew to Palestine, where he secured the powerful support of Eusebius of Caesarea.


Patriarch of Alexandria and the nineteenth Pope of Alexandria from 313 AD to his death, he is prominent by the fact that his appointment to the Patriarchal See excluded the heresiarch Arius from that post. During his patriarchate, he was forced to deal with a number of issues relevant to the church's positions on issues facing the church. These included the dating of Easter, the actions of Meletius of Lycopolis, and the issue of Arianism among them. He was the leader of the opposition to Arianism at the First Council of Nicaea, at which he had been called to preside. He is also remembered for being the mentor of the man who would be his successor, Athanasius of Alexandria, who would become one of the leading saints of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the majority of Christianity in general and its first Doctor.

Arius had begun to teach his heresies in 300 AD when Peter, by whom he was excommunicated, was Patriarch. He was reinstated by Achillas the successor of Peter and then began to scheme to be made a bishop. Achillas, had not only allowed Arius to return to the church but had given him the oldest church in Alexandria, a position which allowed him to exercise a great influence on the Christian community of Alexandria. In fact, Arius was even a contender for the post of patriarch of Alexandria at the death of Achillas. When Achillas died Alexander was elected and after that Arius threw off all his pretenses. Alexander was particularly obnoxious to him although so tolerant of his errors at first that the clergy nearly revolted. Finally the heresy was condemned in a council held in Alexandria and later on, as is well known, in the general Council of Nicaea whose Acts Alexander is credited with having drawn up. An additional merit of this great man is that during his priesthood he passed through the bloody persecutions of Galerius, Maximinus, and others.

The conflict between Alexander and Arius began when Alexander declared the unity of the Trinity in one of his sermons. Arius immediately responded by labeling Alexander's statement Sabellianism, which had already been rejected by that time. The controversy quickly escalated and Arius developed ever increasing support for his position, winning over a number of deacons and at least one presbyter, who started to ordain presbyters of his own. Arius continued to draw even more attention and support to the point that Alexander found himself having to summon two separate assemblies of his priests and deacons to discuss the matter. Neither of these assemblies reached any firm conclusions or helped to limit the spread of Arius' beliefs.

Alexander then called a synod of the church of Alexandria and its neighboring province of Mareotis in 320 AD, for the specific intention of deciding what action would be taken regarding this problem. At the synod, thirty-six presbyters and forty-four deacons, including Athanasius of Alexandria, agreed to a condemnation of Arianism and signed a document to that effect. Arius remained successful in spreading his new belief elsewhere particularly in Mareotis and Libya where Arius convinced the bishop Secundus of Ptolemais and Thomas of Marmarica to join him. Arius' success in dividing the leaders of the church made the chance of a formal schism a very real one.

In 321 AD, Alexander called a general council of the entire church of the nation. The council gathered no less than one hundred participants. At this council, Arius continued to argue his earlier position that the Son could not be co-eternal with the father, and even went on to say that the Son was not similar to the Father in substance. This last statement was received with horror by the assembled council who placed Arius under anathema until he recanted his positions.

The dispute over Arianism had become a serious problem which threatened to damage the peace and unity of the church and of the empire. Constantine, now sole claimant to the throne after the execution of Licinius, wrote a letter "to Athanasius and Arius". The letter was given to Hosius of Cordoba, a respected older bishop, to deliver to the disputants in Alexandria. In the letter, Constantine requested that Alexander and Arius end their dispute. Shortly after receiving the message from Constantine, Alexander requested another general council of the diocese, which seems to have confirmed its agreement with the profession of faith Alexander had earlier circulated. It contained an agreement for use of the theological term "consubstantial". It also reaffirmed the excommunication of Arius and the condemnation of the followers of Meletius which, of course, angered the Arians of Alexandria even more. Arius himself formally complained to the emperor over his treatment by Alexander. In response, Constantine called for Arius to plead his case before an ecumenical council of the church, to be held at Nicaea in Bithynia on 14 June 325 AD the first such council ever called into existence.

Alexander came to the council with a party which included Potamon of Heraclea, Paphnutius of Thebes, and Alexander's deacon, Athanasius, who acted as his spokesman. Alexander was himself supposed to preside over the meeting, but felt that he could not serve as both presiding official and chief accuser. On that basis, he turned over the presidency to Hosius of Cordova. After lengthy discussion, the council issued a decision which, among other things, confirmed the anaethema of Arius. Five months after returning to Alexandria from Nicaea, Alexander died. As he was dying he is said by some to have named Athanasius, his deacon, as his successor.

Alexander is described by the Roman Catholic church as "a man held in the highest honor by the people and clergy, magnificent, liberal, eloquent, just, a lover of God and man, devoted to the poor, good and sweet to all, so mortified that he never broke his fast while the sun was in the heavens."

Epistles on Arianism and the Deposition of Arius

Of the Manicheans

ATHANASIUS (296 - 373 AD)

He is chronologically the first Doctor of the Church as designated by the Roman Catholic Church and is considered as one of the four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church in addition to Saints Chrysostom, Basil and Gregory. Atanasius is also known as Saint Athanasius the Great. Athanasius is probably the man to whom we chiefly owe the preservation of the Christian faith. He lived in Alexandria, Egypt, the chief center of learning of the Roman Empire. He was the greatest champion of Catholic belief on the subject of the Incarnation that the Church has ever known and in his lifetime earned the characteristic title of "Father of Orthodoxy", by which he has been distinguished every since.

As a boy, he was noticed by his predecessor, Alexander playing "baptism" on the shore. Alexander became his patron, took him into his house and employed him as his secretary. This was probably about 313 AD. From this time, Athanasius was devoted to the Christian ministry. Athanasius received his philosophical and theological training at Alexandria. He was ordained as a deacon by the current patriarch, Alexander of Alexandria.

In 313 AD the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which changed Christianity from a persecuted to an officially favored religion. About six years later, a presbyter (elder, priest) Arius of Alexandria began to teach concerning the Word of God (John 1:1) that "God begat him, and before he was begotten, he did not exist." Athanasius was at that time a newly ordained deacon, secretary to Bishop Alexander of Alexandria, and a member of his household. His reply to Arius was that the begetting, or uttering, of the Word by the Father is an eternal relation between Them, and not a temporal event. Arius was condemned by the bishops of Egypt (with the exceptions of Secundus of Ptolemais and Theonas of Marmorica), and went to Nicomedia, from which he wrote letters to bishops throughout the world, stating his position.

Before the outbreak of the Arian controversy, which began in 319 AD, Athanasius had made himself known as the author of two essays addressed to a convert from heathenism, one of them entitled Against the Gentiles, and the other On the Incarnation of the Word.

Arius came into a direct conflict with Alexander of Alexandria. Arius reproached Alexander for what he felt were misguided or heretical teachings being taught by the bishop. Arius' theological views appear to have been firmly rooted in Alexandrian Christianity, and his Christological views were certainly not radical at all. He embraced a view that God did not have a beginning, but the Logos did and was heavily influenced by Alexandrian thinkers like Origen. Support for Arius from powerful Bishops like Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia, further demonstrate how Arius' views were shared by other Christians in the Empire. Arius was subsequently excommunicated.

The Emperor Constantine undertook to resolve the dispute by calling a council of bishops from all over the Christian world. This council met in Nicaea, just across the straits from what is now Istanbul, in the year 325 AD and consisted of 317 bishops. Athanasius accompanied his bishop to the council, served as Alexander's secretary at this First Council of Nicaea and argued against Arius and his doctrine that Christ is of a distinct substance from the Father. He became recognized as a chief spokesman for the view that the Son was fully God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. Already a recognized theologian and ascetic, he was the obvious choice to replace Alexander as the Patriarch of Alexandria on the latter's death in 328 AD, despite the opposition of the followers of Arius and Meletius of Lycopolis.

So the result was that the Council adopted a creed, which is a shorter version of what we now call the Nicene Creed, declaring the Son to be "of one substance with the Father." At the end, there were only two holdouts, Secundus and Theonas. As soon as the council was over, the consensus began falling apart. Constantine had expected that the result would be unity but found that the Arians would not accept the decision and that many of the orthodox bishops were prepared to look for wording a little softer than that of Nicaea. Something that sounded orthodox, but that the Arians would accept. All sorts of compromise formulas were worked out with all shades of variation from the formula of Nicaea.

Athanasius' first problem lay with the Melitians, who had failed to abide by the terms of the decision made at this First Council of Nicaea which had hoped to reunite them with the Church. Athanasius was accused of mistreating the Arians and the followers of Melitius of Lycopolis and had to answer those charges at a gathering of bishops in Tyre in 335 AD. At that meeting Eusebius of Nicomedia and the other supporters of Arius deposed Athanasius. Later, both parties of the dispute met with Constantine I in Constantinople. At that meeting, Athanasius was accused of threatening to interfere with the supply of grains from Egypt and without any kind of formal trial, was exiled by Constantine to Trier in the Rhineland. In 338 AD Athansius summoned St Anthony the Great, the great hermit, to come help him refute the teachings of Arius.

Pope Julius I wrote to the supporters of Arius strongly urging the reinstatement of Athanasius but that effort proved to be in vain. He called a synod in Rome in the year 341 AD to address the matter and at that meeting Athanasius was found to be innocent of all the charges raised against him. Julius also called the Council of Sardica in 343 AD. This council confirmed the decision of the earlier Roman synod and clearly indicated that the attendees saw Athanasius as the lawful Patriarch of Alexandria. It proved no more successful, however, as only bishops from the West and Egypt bothered to appear.

In 346 AD, following the death of Gregory, Constans used his influence to allow Athanasius to return to Alexandria. Athanasius' return was welcomed by the majority of the people of Egypt who had come to view him as a national hero. This was the start of a "golden decade" of peace and prosperity, during which time Athanasius assembled several documents relating to his exiles and returns from exile in the Apology Against the Arians. However, upon Constans' death in 350 AD, civil war broke out which left Constantius as sole emperor. Constantius, renewing his previous policies favoring the Arians banished Athanasius from Alexandria once again. The years from 346 AD through 356 AD were a relatively peaceful period for Athanasius and some of his most important writings were composed during this period.

During this time, Saint Anthony the Great (251–356 AD), also known as Anthony the Abbot, Anthony of Egypt, Anthony of the Desert, Anthony the Anchorite, Abba Antonius, and Father of All Monks, lived as an Egyptian Christian saint and was the prominent leader among the Desert Fathers. Anthony lived in Alexandria for much of his life. Most of what is known about the life of St Anthony comes from the Life of Anthony, written in Greek around 360 AD by Athanasius. Sometime before 374 AD it was translated into Latin by Evagrius of Antioch. The Latin translation helped the Life become one of the best known works of literature in the Christian world, a status it would hold through the Middle Ages.

In 361 AD after the death of Emperor Constantius, shortly followed by the murder of the very unpopular Bishop George the popular Athanasius now had the opportunity to return to his Patriarchate. The following year he convened a council at Alexandria at which he appealed for unity among all those who had faith in Christianity, even if they differed on matters of terminology. This prepared the groundwork for the definition of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, which stresses the distinctions between the persons of God more than Athanasius himself generally did. In 362 AD, the new Emperor Julian, noted for his opposition to Christianity, ordered Athanasius to leave Alexandria once again.

Athanasius's other works include his two-part "Against the Heathen" and "The Incarnation of the Word of God". Completed around 335 AD they constitute the first classic work of developed Orthodox theology. In the first part, Athanasius attacks several Pagan practices and beliefs. The second part presents teachings on the redemption. Also in these books, Athanasius put forward the belief that the Son of God, the Eternal Word through whom God created the world, entered that world in human form to lead men back into the harmony from which they had earlier fallen away. This work intentionally challenged the doctrines of Arianism, which stated that the Son was a lesser entity than the Father.

From 366 AD he was able to serve as bishop in peace until his death. Athanasius was restored on at least five separate occasions, perhaps as many as seven. This gave rise to the expression "Athanasius contra mundum" or "Athanasius against the world". Of the almost 46 years he was bishop, he spent 17 in hiding or fleeing from soldiers or mobs determined to kill him.

He spent his final years in repairing all the damage done during the earlier years of violence, dissent, and exile, and returning to his writing and preaching undisturbed. On the 2nd of May 373 AD, having consecrated Peter II one of his presbyters as his successor, he died quietly in his own house.

Christian faith in any meaningful sense, re-affirmed the Nicene Creed at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, a final triumph that Athanasius did not live to see.

The biography of Anthony by Athanasius itself is considered to have done more to help propagate the ideals of the primitive monastic lifestyle than any other book. In the book, Athanasius says, "For monks, the life of Anthony is a sufficient example of ascetism."

He held that not only the Son of God was consubstantial with the Father, but so also was the Holy Spirit, which held a great deal of influence in the development of later doctrines regarding the Trinity.

Athanasius' letters include one "Letter Concerning the Decrees of the Council of Nicaea", which is an account of the proceedings of that Council and another letter in the year 367 AD which was the first known listing of the New Testament including all those books now accepted everywhere as the New Testament. For the New Testament, he lists the 27 books that are recognized today. (If you will look at the list of New Testament books, note that Matthew through 2 Thessalonians were never in dispute, that the next four were subject to relatively little dispute, and that the remaining books had more trouble being accepted. There were also a few books that looked as if they might make the list, but eventually did not, the most conspicuous being the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle of Clement, and the Shepherd of Hermas.). For the Old Testament, his list is like that used by most Protestants, except that he omits Esther, and includes Baruch, with the letter of Jeremiah. His supplementary list is Wisdom, Sirach, Tobias, Judith, and Esther. He does not mention Maccabees.

The life of St Anthony

On the Incarnation of the Word

Four Discourses against the Arians


Eusebius Pamphili, Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine is also known as, the "Father of Church History".

There is nothing known about Eusebius's parentage or background other than the fact that he escaped with a short term of imprisonment during the Diocletian persecution when his master Pamphilus and others of his companions suffered martyrdom. This suggests that he belonged to a family of some influence and importance. His relations with the Emperor Constantine at the Nicaean council point to the same conclusion.

Eusebius made the acquaintance of Pamphilus early on, who was the founder of the library, which remained the great glory of the Church of Caesarea for several centuries. Pamphilus came from Phoenicia, but at this time in Eusebius's life resided at Caesarea where he presided over a college or school for students.

As soon as the persecution began to relax, Eusebius succeeded Pamphilus in the charge of the college and library. He was ordained a priest about this time. By 315 AD he was already a bishop and was present in that capacity at the dedication of a new basilica at Tyre.

In 320 AD, Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, excommunicated Arius (Arius taught that the Son of God was not consubstantial or coeternal with God the Father, but that there was once a time, before he was begotten, that he did not exist). The Arians soon found that Eusebius was on their side. He wrote to Alexander charging him with misrepresenting the teaching of the Arians and so giving them cause "to attack and misrepresent whatever they please". A portion of this letter has been preserved in the Acts of the second Council of Nicaea where it was cited to prove that Eusebius was a heretic. He also took part in a synod of Syrian bishops who decided that Arius should be restored to his former position. Arius, like Origen before him, found an asylum at Caesarea. At the opening of the Council of Nicaea, Eusebius occupied the first seat on the right of the Emperor, and delivered the inaugural address, which was "couched in a strain of thanksgiving to Almighty God on his, the emperor's behalf". He enjoyed great prestige and may not unreasonably have expected to be able to steer the council. But if he entertained such hopes they were not realized. The profession of faith, which he brought forward to vindicate his own orthodoxy, or perhaps in the hope that the Council might adopt it was viewed as a controversial, colorless formula. After some delay, Eusebius subscribed to the uncompromising creed drawn up by the Council, making no secret in the letter, which he wrote to his own Church of the non-natural sense in which he accepted it.

Between 325 AD and 330 AD a heated controversy took place between Eusebius and Eustathius, Bishop of Antioch. Eustathius accused Eusebius of tampering with the faith of Nicaea and the latter retorted with the charge of Sabellianism (the nontrinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in God Himself). In 331 AD Eusebius was among the bishops who, at a synod held in Antioch, deposed Eustathius. He was offered and refused the vacant See. In 334 AD and 335 AD he took part in the campaign against St. Athanasius at the synods held in Caesarea and Tyre respectively. From Tyre the assembly of bishops were summoned to Jerusalem by Constantine, to assist at the dedication of the basilica he had erected on the site of Calvary. After the dedication they restored Arius and his followers to communion. From Jerusalem they were summoned to Constantinople (336 AD), where Marcellus was condemned. The following year Constantine died. Eusebius survived him long enough to write his Life and two treatises against Marcellus, but by the summer of 341AD he was already dead, since it was his successor, Acacius, who assisted as Bishop of Caesarea at a synod held at Antioch in the summer of that year.

His major work was his History of the Church, a massive piece of research that preserves quotations from many older writers that would otherwise have been lost. Despite the breadth of his reading most scholars agree "his erudition is not matched by clarity of thought or attractiveness of presentation."


Sometimes surnamed "the Great". He was a native of Side in Pamphylia. About 320 AD he was bishop of Beroea, and he became patriarch of Antioch shortly before the Council of Nicaea. In that assembly he was the leader at the First Council of Nicaea and distinguished himself zealously against the Arians.

At the Council of Nicaea (325 AD), he was one of the most prominent opponents of Arianism and from 325 AD –330 AD he was engaged in an almost continuous literary warfare against the Arians. By his fearless denunciation of Arianism and his refusal to engage any Arian priests in his diocese, he incurred the hatred of the Arians, who, headed by Eusebius of Caesarea and his namesake of Nicomedia held a synod at Antioch (331 AD) at which Eustathius was accused, by suborned witnesses, of Sabellianism, incontinency, cruelty, and other crimes. He was deposed by the synod and banished to Trajanopolis in Thrace by order of the Emperor Constantine, who gave credence to the scandalous tales spread about Eustathius.

The people of Antioch, who loved and revered their holy and learned patriarch became indignant at the injustice done to him and were ready to take up arms in his defense. Eustathius kept them in check, exhorted them to remain true to the orthodox faith and humbly left for his place of exile accompanied by a large body of his clergy. The adherents of Eustathius at Antioch formed a separate community by the name of Eustathians and refused to acknowledge the bishops set over them by the Arians. When, after the death of Eustathius, St. Meletius became Bishop of Antioch in 360 AD by the united vote of the Arians and the orthodox, the Eustathians would not recognize him, even after his election was approved by the Synod of Alexandria in 362 AD.

The only complete work by Eustathius is the De Engastrimytho contra Origenem.


The birthplace and date of this Euesbius is unknown. It is known that he died in 341 AD. He was a pupil at Antioch of Lucian the Martyr as was Arius, in whose famous school he learned his Arian doctrines. He was also one of Arius' most fervent supporters who encouraged Arius. It was also because of this relationship that he was the first person whom Arius contacted after he was excommunicated from Alexandria by Alexander. Arius and Eusebius were close enough and Eusebius powerful enough that Arius was able to put his theology down in writing. He afterward modified his ideas somewhat, or perhaps he only yielded to the pressure of circumstances. He was, for all intent and purposes the leader and organizer of the Arian party.

He became Bishop of Berytus (modern day Beirut) in 338 AD, but from ambitious motives he managed to get transferred, contrary to the canons of the early Church, to the most influential Episcopal See of Nicomedia, which was the residence of the Eastern Emperor Licinius, with whose wife, Constantia, sister of Constantine, he was in high favor. He was the bishop of Nicomedia from 330 – 339 AD and was patriarch of Constantinople from 339 AD until his death.

During his time in the Imperial court, the Eastern court and the major positions in the Eastern Church were held by Arians or Arian sympathizers. With the exception of a short period, he enjoyed the complete confidence both of Constantine and Constantius II and was the tutor of the later Emperor Julian the Apostate. It was he who baptized Constantine the Great in May, 337 AD. Also during his time in the Imperial court, Arianism became more popular with the Royal family. Eusebius had a huge hand in the acceptance of Arianism in the Constantinian household. The Arian influence grew so strong during his tenure in the Imperial court that it wasn't until the end of the Constantinian dynasty and the appointment of Theodosius I that Arianism lost its influence in the Empire.

At the First Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, he signed the Confession but only after a long and unwilling opposition in which he "subscribe with hand only, not heart" according to ancient sources. It was a huge blow to the Arian party since it was recognized that the participants in the First Council of Nicaea were evenly split between non-Arians and Arians. His defense of Arius angered the Emperor, and a few months after the council he was sent into exile due to his continual contacts with Arius and the exiles. After the lapse of three years, he succeeded in regaining the imperial favor by convincing Constantine that Arius and his views do not conflict with the Nicene Creed. After his return in 329 AD he brought the whole machinery of the state government into action in order to impose his views upon the Church. He was able to dislodge and exile three key Arian opponents who espoused the First Council of Nicaea: Eustathius of Antioch in 330 AD, Athanasius of Alexandria in 335 AD and Marcellus of Ancyra in 336 AD. This was no small feat since Athanasius was regarded as a "man of God" by Constantine and both Eustathius and Athanasius held top positions in the church.

He was described by modern historians as an "ambitious intriguer" and a "consummate political player". He was also described by ancient sources as a high-handed person who was also aggressive in his dealings.


The First Council of Nicaea was convoled by Emperor Constantine in 325 AD. It was the first Ecumenical council of the Christian Church and most significantly resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, called the Nicene Creed. With the creation of the creed, a precedent was established for subsequent general (ecumenical) councils of Bishops (Synods) to create statements of belief and canons, the intent being to define unity of beliefs for the whole of Christendom.

The purpose of the council was to resolve disagreements in the Church of Alexandria over the nature of Jesus in relationship to the Father; in particular, whether Jesus was of the same substance as God the Father or merely of similar substance. St. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius took the first position and the popular presbyter Arius, (from whom the term Arian controversy comes as discussed previously) took the second. This Council was to settle the dispute between those (led by Athanasius) who taught that the Logos (the "Word" of John 1:1, who "was made flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth) was completely God, in the same sense in which the Father is God, and those (led by Arius) who taught that the Logos is a being created by God the Father. The bishops declared that the view of Athanasius was that which they had received from their predecessors as the true Faith handed down from the Apostles. (The Athanasian view is held today by Roman Catholics, East Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterian and Reformed, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, and most other Protestant groups. The Arian view is held by the Watchtower Society, also called Jehovah's Witnesses, and by a few other groups, including some conservative Unitarians.)

The council decided against the Arians overwhelmingly (of the estimated 250-318 attendees, all but 2 voted against Arius). Another result of the council was an agreement on when to celebrate the Resurrection, the most important feast of the ecclesiastical calendar. The council decided in favour of celebrating the resurrection on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox independent of the Hebrew Calendar. It authorized the Bishop of Alexandria to announce annually the exact date to his fellow bishops.

The Council of Nicaea was historically significant because it was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom. Approximately 250 to 318 bishops attended, from every region of the Empire except Britain. This was the first general council in the history of the Church since the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem, which had established the conditions upon which Gentiles could join the Church. In the Council of Nicaea, "the Church had taken her first great step to define doctrine more precisely in response to a challenge from a heretical theology." The resolutions in the council, being ecumenical, were intended for the whole Church.

The agenda of the synod were:

The Arian question;

The Melitian schism;

The date of celebration of the Paschal Feast;

The Father and Son one in purpose or in person;

The validity of baptism by heretics;

The status of the lapsed in the persecution under Licinius.

The first two are discussed below.

1.) The Arian controversy was a dispute that began in Alexandria between the followers of Arius (the Arians) and the followers of St. Alexander of Alexandria (now known as Homoousians). Alexander and his followers believed that the Son was of the same substance as the Father, co-eternal with him. The Arians believed that they were different and that the Son, though he may be the most perfect of creations, was only a creation. The Council declared that the Father and the Son are of the same substance and are co-eternal, basing the declaration in the claim that this was a formulation of traditional Christian belief handed down from the Apostles. This belief was expressed in the Nicene Creed.

Bishop Hosius of Cordova, one of the firm Homoousians, may have helped bring the council to consensus. At the time of the council, he was the confidant of the emperor in all Church matters. Hosius stands at the head of the lists of bishops, and Athanasius ascribes to him the actual formulation of the creed. Great leaders such as Eustathius of Antioch, Alexander of Alexandria, Athanasius, and Marcellus of Ancyra all adhered to the Homoousian position.

In spite of his sympathy for Arius, Eusebius of Caesarea adhered to the decisions of the council accepting the entire creed. The initial number of bishops supporting Arius was small. After a month of discussion, on June 19, there were only two left: Theonas of Marmarica in Libya, and Secundus of Ptolemais. Maris of Chalcedon, who initially supported Arianism agreed to the whole creed. Similarly, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nice also agreed except for the certain statements.

The emperor carried out his earlier statement in that anybody who refuses to endorse the Creed would be exiled. Arius, Theonas, and Secundus refused to adhere to the creed and were thus exiled in addition to being excommunicated. The works of Arius were ordered to be confiscated and burned. Nevertheless, the festering controversy continued in various parts of the empire.

2.) Melitius (died after 325 AD) was bishop of Lycopolis in Egypt. He is known mainly as the founder and namesake of the Melitians (305 AD), one of several sects in early church history which were concerned about the ease with which lapsed Christians reentered the Church. As early as during the Decian persecution, Melitius began to refuse to give communion those Christians who had renounced their faith during the persecution and later repented of that choice. Melitius' rigorous stance on this point stood in contrast to the earlier willingness of bishops to accept back into communion those who seemed to have truly repented.

Nicaean Creed

One Early Church/LectureOne/NiceneCreed.htm


At the Council of 326 AD, St. Athanasius was elected to succeed the aged Alexander and various heresies and schisms of Egypt were denounced.


There is a traditional list of eight great Doctors (Teachers, Theologians) of the ancient Church. It lists four Western (Latin) Doctors -- Ambrose of Milan, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome of Strido, and Gregory the Great (Pope Gregory) -- and four Eastern (Greek) Doctors -- Athanasius of Alexandria, John Chrysostom of Antioch and Constantinople, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus (also called Gregory Nazianzen). He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age.

Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek speaking and Latin speaking theologians and he is remembered as the "Trinitarian Theologian". Much of his theological work continues to influence modern theologians, especially in regard to the relationship among the three Persons of the Trinity. Along with two brothers, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, he is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers.

Gregory is a Doctor of the Church and in the Eastern Catholic Churches he is revered as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs along with Basil the Great and John Chrysostom.

Gregory was the best friend of Basil the Great.  After studying together in Athens they returned to their native Cappadocia to serve the Lord.  It was during the time of the Arian heresy which contested the full divinity of Christ. Orthodox bishops were badly needed who could teach the true doctrine of the Church with clarity and depth. Gregory, was made the bishop of the small town of Nazianzen, but later was elevated to the highest Ecclesiastical See (after Rome), becoming the Patriarch of Constantinople.  As such, he presided over the First Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 AD that completed the Nicaean Creed. Gregory's teaching was so profound and accurate that he is one of the few teachers in the history of the Church known as "the theologian."

When the Emperor Julian publicly declared himself in opposition to Christianity, Gregory composed his Invectives Against Julian between 362 and 363 AD. Disparaging the emperor's morals and intellect, the Invectives assert that Christianity will overcome imperfect rulers such as Julian through love and patience. This process as described by Gregory is the public manifestation of the process of deification which leads to a spiritual elevation and mystical union with God. Julian resolved in late 362 AD to vigorously prosecute Gregory and his other Christian critics. However, the emperor died the following year during a campaign against the Persians. With the death of the emperor, Gregory and the Eastern churches were no longer under the threat of persecution, as the new emperor Jovian was an avowed Christian and supporter of the church.

In 379, after the death of the Arian Emperor Valens, Gregory was asked to go to Constantinople to preach there. For thirty years, the city had been controlled by Arians or pagans, and the orthodox did not even have a church there. Gregory went. He converted his own house there into a church and held services in it. There he preached the Five Theological Orations for which he is best known, a series of five sermons on the Trinity and in defense of the deity of Christ. People flocked to hear him preach, and the city was largely won over to the Athanasian (Trinitarian, catholic, orthodox) position by his powers of persuasion. The following year, he was consecrated bishop of Constantinople. He presided at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, which confirmed the Athanasian position of the earlier Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Having accomplished what he believed to be his mission at Constantinople and sick of ecclesiastical politics Gregory resigned and retired to his home town of Nazianzus where he died in 389 AD.

Five Theological Orations


Gregory of Nyssa was the younger brother of St. Basil the Great and St. Macrina.  Gregory married and spent several years of his life in secular employment before he entered the monastery founded by his elder brother.  He was consecrated Bishop of Nyssa in 371 AD and fought for the Trinitarian faith of Nicaea that was reaffirmed by the great Creed of the Council of Constantinople which he attended.  In the last few years of his life, he traveled a great deal since he was in great demand as a preacher, teacher, and spiritual writer.

 St. Gregory of Nyssa was a theologian of great depth and originality.  He wrote famous treatises against the Trinitarian heretics Eunomius and Apollinarius and instructed new Christians about the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption and Sacraments in his Catechetical Orations.  But his theological reflections far surpassed controversy and cathechesis--indeed, St. Gregory provided the Church with the first systematic presentation of Christian doctrine since Origen over 150 years earlier.

 He wrote many reflections and commentaries on Scripture, most notably the Life of Moses and homilies on the Lord's Prayer, the Song of Songs, and the Beatitudes.  His most important contribution was in the area of spirituality.  While his brother gave eastern monasticism its structure and organization, Gregory provided its heart and mystical vision. For this reason he came to be know as "Father of Mysticism."

 St. Gregory of Nyssa died around the year 395 AD and is revered as one of the greatest of the Eastern Church Fathers.  He, his brother Basil and their friend Gregory of Nazianzen, are known as the Cappadocian Fathers from the region in modern Turkey from which they came.

On Infants Early Deaths

On the Soul and Resurrection

The Great Catechism (Gregory's most important dogmatic writing)


Basil received the best education in pagan and Christian culture available in his day, studying in his native Cappadocia, Constantinople, and Athens. His life changed course when he gave up a worldly career to enter the monastic life.  It was at this time that he fell under the influence of his sister Macrina, who had founded a religious community on the family estate at Annesi. Basil himself tells us how, like a man roused from deep sleep, he turned his eyes to the marvelous truth of the Gospel, wept many tears over his miserable life and prayed for guidance from God: "Then I read the Gospel, and saw there that a great means of reaching perfection was the selling of one's goods, the sharing of them with the poor, the giving up of all care for this life, and the refusal to allow the soul to be turned by any sympathy towards things of earth". Basil visited monasteries in Egypt, Palestine, Coele-Syria, and Mesopotamia. He returned, filled with admiration for the austerity and piety of the monks and founded a monastery in his native Pontus, on the banks of the Iris, nearly opposite Annesi. He lived a life of prayer and tranquility, far from the busy city life until his bishop Eusebius, called upon Basil in 364 AD to help defend orthodox Christianity against the Arian Emperor Valens.

In 370 AD Basil was chosen to succeed Eusebius as bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia.  He found himself in the thick of the arguments between the Orthodox, Catholic Christians who confessed Christ's full divinity and the various Arian parties who taught that Jesus was not equal to God the Father.  He was soon engaged in battling those called "Pneumatomachi" ("fighters against the spirit") who denied the full divinity of the Holy Spirit.  He also is famous for his care for the poor and build a series of hostels and hospitals around Caesarea to relieve their suffering. He ranks after Athanasius as a defender of the Church against the heresies of the fourth century.

Basil underwent suffering of many kinds. Athanasius died in 373 and the elder Gregory in 374, both of them leaving gaps never to be filled. In 373 began the painful estrangement from Gregory of Nazianzus. Gregory of Nyssa was condemned and deposed. When Emperor Valentinian died, the Arians recovered their influence and all Basil's efforts must have seemed in vain. His health was breaking, the Goths were at the door of the empire, Antioch was in schism, Rome doubted his sincerity and the bishops refused to be brought together as he wished. He was suspected of heresy by Pope Damasus, and accused by Jerome of pride. Had he lived a little longer and attended the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD, he would have seen the death of its first president, his friend Meletius, and the forced resignation of its second, Gregory of Nazianzus.

His rule for monks set the tone for religious life in the East and his book On the Holy Spirit laid the groundwork for the clarification of the Spirit's full divinity that was defined by the first Council of Constantinople in 380 AD.  Basil became known as the father of Oriental monasticism, the forerunner of St. Benedict. Together with his friend, St. Gregory of Nazianzen, St. Basil compiled the "Philocalia," a selection from the works of Origen which grew to be a spiritual classic of Eastern Christianity.  His three "Books Against Eunomius" are also important for their doctrine on Christ's full divinity.  His Monastic Rule forms to this day the basis of virtually all religious life in the Eastern Churches and the liturgy named after him is one of the principal liturgies of the Byzantine tradition.  St. Basil the Great died in 379 AD, the year before the First Council of Constantinople finished the Creed we now recite each Sunday.

On the Holy Spirit

Collection of 366 of Saint Basil's Letters


This Synod, headed by Eusebius of Caesarea and his Eusebius of Nicomedia was held to accuse Eustathius of Sabellianism and other crimes and supported by suborned witnesses. He was deposed by the synod and banished to Trajanopolis in Thrace by order of the Emperor Constantine, who gave credence to the scandalous tales spread about Eustathius. The people of Antioch, who loved and revered their holy and learned patriarch, became indignant at the injustice done to him and were ready to take up arms in his defense. But Eustathius kept them in check, exhorted them to remain true to the orthodox faith and humbly left for his place of exile, accompanied by a large body of his clergy.


Marcarius was bishop of Jerusalem from about 313 AD until his death about 334 AD. He was a lifelong opponent of Arianism and fought strenuously against it as a heresy. He was present at the first General Council of the Church held at Nicaea in 325 AD and played a large roll in drafting the Creed.

At this Council, Marcarius told Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine about the dilapidated state of Jerusalem's holy places and sites associated with events in the last week of Jesus' life.

Soon after the Council, he together with Helena visited Jerusalem and shortly thereafter miraculously discovered the true Cross in Jerusalem and various other religious relics and sites. While there, Helena was commissioned by her son to build the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Later, he and his fellow Bishops of Palestine received another letter from Constantine to construct at Mamre.

POPE SYLVESTER (unknown - 335 AD)

After the death of Militates (Melchiades), Sylvester was made Bishop of Rome and occupied this position twenty-one years. This was the era of Constantine the Great, when the public position of the Church became greatly improved. It is unfortunate there is very little information concerning Sylvester's pontificate.

The pope took part in the negotiations concerning Arianism and the Council of Nicaea and the expression "omoousion" was probably agreed upon with him before the great Council. The pontiff also sent legates to the first Ecumenical Council. It is not clear whether Constantine and Sylvester had any arrangements beforehand about the actual convening of the council, nor if there was agreement regarding the papal confirmations of the decrees.

During Sylvester's pontificate, great churches were built with the aid of Constantine such as the basilica and baptistery of the Lateran near the former imperial palace where the pope lived, the basilica of the Sessorian palace (Santa Croce), the Church of St. Peter in the Vatican and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs.

During his reign the first martyrology of Roman martyrs was most likely drawn up. Sylvester is also connected with the establishment of the Roman school of singing.


He was the Bishop of Ancyra in Galatia and appeared to be a zealous adherent of the homoousian doctrine at the synods of Nicaea where he met Athanasius. His work De subjectione Dornini Christi, written against the Arians, made the Arians respond by placing him under the suspicion of Sabellianism.

The bishops at the First Synod of Tyre in 335 AD (which also deposed Athanasius) seem to have written to Constantine against Marcellus when he refused to communicate with Arius at Constantine's thirtieth-anniversary celebrations at Jerusalem. The Council of Constantinople deposed him in 336 AD under the presidency of Eusebius of Nicomedia and the Arian Basil of Ancyra was appointed to his See. Eusebius of Caesarea wrote against him, Contra Marcellum and De ecclesiastica theologia.

After the death of Constantine the Great, he was able to resume his See. He was again deposed probably at the same time as Bishop Paulus of Constantinople and sought refuge in the West. Bishop Julius of Rome recognized him as orthodox and so did the Synod of Sardica, 343 AD. It does not seem that he ever returned to Ancyra and when the Arians came into ascendancy under Constantius, he was condemned, together with Athanasius, by the Synods of Aries in 353 AD and Milan in 355 AD. Even his relation with Athanasius was disturbed by his Sabellianism, though he accepted the confession that the Marcellians of Ancyra sent to Athanasius as satisfactory. Athanasius resisted Basil of Caesarea's attempts to have him generally condemned, and re-established communion with Marcellus. After the rupture with Athanasius, he seems to have lived in retirement. According to Epiphanius, he died two years later.

Marcellus's theology included a belief in universalism, that all people would eventually be saved. He is quoted by Eusebius as having said "For what else do the words mean, 'until the times of the restitution' (Acts 3:21), but that the apostle designed to point out that time in which all things partake of that perfect restoration."

Aside from the fragments which survive in Eusebius' Against Marcellus, a letter survives in Epiphanius, Panarion 72.


The First Synod of Tyre was a gathering of bishops called together by Emperor Constantine I for the primary purpose of evaluating charges brought against Athanasius, the Patriarch of Alexandria. Constantine had decided that he wanted Athanasius to readmit Arius to the church, which he would not do. In 334 AD Athanasius was summoned before a synod in Caesarea, which he did not attend.

While a group of bishops were en route to Jerusalem to dedicate a new church (the precursor to the Holy Sepulcher), Constantine requested that they gather in the city of Tyre to consider the case against Athanasius. The Emperor also sent a letter to Athanasius making clear that if he did not attend voluntarily, he would be brought to the Synod forcibly. Eusebius of Caesarea presided over the assembly and about 310 members attended. Athanasius appeared this time with forty-eight Egyptian bishops. The Synod condemned Athanasius, but he fled to Constantinople and confronted the Emperor personally.

At a hearing in the presence of the Emperor, Athanasius was cleared of all charges except one, threatening to cut off the grain supply to Constantinople from Egypt. This one charge was enough for the Emperor to exile Athanasius to Trier. Athanasius did not return from exile until the death of Constantine in 337 AD. The Arianism of the Synod of Tyre was ultimately overturned by the Council of Constantinople of 336 AD.


Marcellus of Ancyra was the victim of this Council. He was a friend and champion of Athanasius, but unfortunately not fluent in Christology and found it impossible to defend the Nicene decisions without falling into Sabellianism (The principal tenet of Sabellius says that the Father is the same as the Son and the Son the same as the Spirit. There are three names, but only one being. Sabellius taught that God was not Father and Son at the same time and that He had been active under three successive forms of energy). The bishops at Jerusalem having condemned his works first deposed Marcellus at Constantinople in 336 AD at a Council under the presidency of Eusebius of Nicomedia, the Arian.


He was born in what is now France, the son of the Roman prefect of Gaul.  There is a legend that as an infant, a swarm of bees settled on his face while he lay in his cradle, leaving behind a drop of honey. His father considered this a sign of his future eloquence and honeyed tongue. For this reason, bees and beehives often appear in the saint's symbology. Following his father's footsteps, Ambrose embarked upon a career in law and politics and by 370 AD, he had become the Imperial governor of Northern Italy.  There was a deep conflict in the diocese of Milan as well as the rest of the Church between the Trinitarians and the Arians. In 374 AD, Auxentius, bishop of Milan, died, and the Arians challenged the succession. When the Episcopal see of Milan became vacant the people demanded that Ambrose be made their bishop.  Ambrose was known to be personally Trinitarian, but also acceptable to Arians due to the charity shown in theological matters in this regard. The neighboring bishops and the Emperor convinced him to accept this call as the will of God, and so the catechumen Ambrose was baptized and ordained first Deacon, then Priest, then Bishop, all in a single week!

 This politician turned churchman was very aware of his lack of preparation for this great responsibility and so set himself immediately to prayer and the study of Scripture.  His deep spirituality and love of God's Word married together with the oratorical skill acquired in law and politics made Ambrose one of the greatest preachers of the early church.  As bishop, he immediately adopted an ascetic lifestyle, apportioned his money to the poor, donating all of his land, making only provision for his sister Marcellina, and committed the care of his family to his brother. Using his excellent knowledge of Greek, which was then rare in the West, to his advantage, he studied the Hebrew Bible and Greek authors like Philo, Origen, Athanasius, and Basil of Caesarea, with whom he was also exchanging letters.

 Ambrose proved to be a fierce opponent of heresy, paganism, and hypocrisy.  He battled to preserve the independence of the Church from the state and courageously excommunicated the powerful Catholic Emperor Theodosius for a massacre of innocent civilians in Thessalonica. Ambrose told Theodosius to imitate David in his repentance as he had imitated him in guilt - Ambrose readmitted the emperor to the Eucharist only after several months of penance . This incident shows the strong position of a bishop in the Western part of the empire, even when facing a strong emperor. The controversy of John Chrysostom with a much weaker emperor a few years later in Constantinople led to a crushing defeat of the bishop. Ambrose also had a significant impact on sacred music through the composition of hymns and psalm tones that are known to this day as Ambrosian chantin.  Besides numerous sermons and treatises on the spiritual life, Ambrose is responsible for two of the first great theological works written in Latin, De Sacramentis On the Sacraments and De Spiritu Sancto On the Holy Spirit. The powerful Mariology of Ambrose influenced contemporary Popes like Pope Damasus and Siricius and later Pope Leo the Great. Augustine and the Council of Ephesus were equally under his spell. Central to Ambrose is the virginity of Mary and her role as Mother of God.

Around 385, an ambitious professor of public speaking named Augustine came to hear Ambrose preach in order to study his technique and in the process was attracted to the Catholic faith.  In 386 AD Augustine was baptized by St. Ambrose and went on to become bishop of Hippo in North Africa.  Ambrose and his pupil, Augustine, together with St. Jerome and St. Gregory the Great, make up the four original Doctors of the Latin Church. Saint Ambrose, the great bishop of Milan died on Holy Saturday (April 4) in the year 397 AD.

On the Holy Spirit


In 340 AD, one hundred bishops met at Alexandria, declared in favor of Athanasius and vigorously rejected the claims calumnies of the Eusebian faction at Tyre.


Sardica was the first synod which asserted, in some sense, Roman primacy in the Church

The Council of Sardica was one of the series of councils called to adjust the doctrinal and other difficulties of the Arian controversy. Sardica in Dacia Inferior, (now Sofia in Bulgaria), was chosen as the meeting place. The Roman Emperors Constans and Constantius II called for the council at the urgent entreaty of Pope Julius I.

Hosius of Cordova and other bishops from the Western Roman Empire desired peace and a final judgment in the case of Athanasius of Alexandria and other bishops alternately condemned and vindicated by councils in the East and the West. They also desired to definitively settling the confusion arising from the many doctrinal formulas in circulation, suggested that all such matters should be referred to a general council. Ninety-six Western bishops presented themselves at Sardica, those from the East were less numerous.

The council failed entirely to accomplish its purpose. The pacification of the Church was not secured. As a result, the Council of Sardica failed to universally represent the church and is not one of the official Ecumenical Councils.


St. John, named Chrysostom (golden-mouthed) on account of his eloquence was born to Christian parents in the city of Antioch. He studied rhetoric under Libanius, a pagan and the most famous orator of the age. Saint Chrysostom is considered to be one of the Three Holy Hierarchs in the Eastern Church together with Saint Basil the Great and Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (the Theologian). He is also a Doctor of the Church.

In 374 AD he began to lead the life of an anchorite in the mountains near Antioch. He was ordained as a Deacon in 381 AD by Saint Meletius of Antioch and was ordained as a presbyter in 386 AD by Bishop Flavian I of Antioch. Over the course of twelve years he gained popularity because of the eloquence of his public speaking and his special insightful expositions of Bible passages and moral teachings. The most valuable of his works from this period are his Homilies on various books of the Bible. He emphasised charitable giving and was concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor. He also spoke out against abuse of wealth and personal property.

He made enemies by his denunciations of the vices and follies of the clergy and aristocracy. He emptied the Episcopal palace of its costly plates and furniture and sold it for the benefit of the poor and the hospitals. He introduced his strict ascetic habits and reduced the luxurious household of his predecessors to the strictest simplicity. He devoted his large income to good works. He refused invitations to banquets, gave no dinner parties, and ate the simplest food in his solitary chamber. He denounced luxurious habits in eating and dressing and pressed the rich to remember their duty of almsgiving to such an extent that it increased rather than decreased the number of beggars who swarmed the streets and around the churches and public baths. He disciplined the vicious clergy and opposed the perilous and immoral habit of unmarried priests of living under the same roof with "spiritual sisters." This habit dated from an earlier age and was a reaction against celibacy. Later, Cyprian also raised his protest against it and it was forbade in a later Council for unmarried priests to live with any females except close relations.

In 398 AD, John was requested, against his will, to take the position of Archbishop of Constantinople and became one of the greatest lights of the Church. His time in Constantinople was more tumultuous than his time in Antioch. Theophilus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, wanted to bring Constantinople under his sway and opposed John's appointment to Constantinople. Being an opponent of Origen's teachings he accused John of being too partial to the teachings of that theologian.

John had enemies in high places and some were ecclesiastics including Theophilus the Patriarch of Alexandria, who repented of this before he died but made John's life miserable. His most powerful enemy, however, was the Empress Eudoxia, who was offended by the apostolic freedom of his discourses. Chrysostom's unpopularity was increased by his irritability and obstinacy. The Empress Eudoxia was jealous of his influence over Arcadius and angry at his uncompromising severity against sin and vice. She became the chief instrument of his downfall. At the request of the clergy of Ephesus and the neighboring bishops, he visited that city in January 401 and held a synod and deposed six bishops convicted of shameful simony. During his absence of several months, he left the Episcopate of Constantinople in the hands of Severian, bishop of Gabala, an unworthy and adroit flatterer who basely betrayed his trust and formed a cabal headed by the empress and her licentious court ladies, for the ruin of Chrysostom. On his return to Constantinople, he used unguarded language in the pulpit and spoke on Elijah's relation to Jezebel in such a manner that Eudoxia understood it as a personal insult. The clergy were anxious to get rid of a bishop who was too severe for their lax morals. Several accusations were brought against him in a pseudo councils and he was sent into exile.

In the midst of his sufferings, he, like St. Paul the apostle whom he so greatly admired found the greatest peace and happiness. He had the consolation of knowing that the Pope remained his friend and did for him what lay in his power. His enemies were not satisfied with the sufferings he had already endured and they banished him still further, to Pythius, at the very extremity of the Empire. He died on his way there on September 14, 407 AD.

Homilies of St John Chrysostom (over 200 in total)

The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom


Nothing is known of his early life. Around 370 AD he was living in a monastic community in Aquileia when he met Jerome. In about 372 AD he travelled to the eastern Mediterranean where he studied in Alexandria under Didymus the Blind for some time. He first settled in Egypt, hearing the lectures of Didymus, the Origenistic head of the catechetical school at Alexandria and also cultivating friendly relations with Macanus the elder and other ascetics in the desert. While there he had become intimately acquainted with Melania the Elder a wealthy and devout Roman widow and when she moved to Palestine, taking with her a number of clergy and monks on whom the persecutions of the Arian Valens had borne heavily, Rufinus followed her in 378 AD. He founded a monastery in Jerusalem. Over the next few years, he spent time with Jerome and became known as the translator of Greek patristic material into Latin, especially the works of Origen.

In 394, in consequence of the attack upon the doctrines of Origen made by Epiphanius of Salamis during a visit to Jerusalem a fierce quarrel broke out, which found Rufinus and Jerome on different sides and, though three years afterwards a formal reconciliation was brought about between Jerome and John the breach between Jerome and Rufinus remained unhealed.

He published a Latin translation of the Apology of Pamphilus for Origen, and also (398-99 AD) a somewhat free rendering of the De Principiis. In the preface to this piece of work, he referred to Jerome as an admirer of Origen. This allusion annoyed Jerome who was exceedingly sensitive about his reputation for orthodoxy and the consequence was a bitter pamphlet war but turned out to be wonderful to their readers.

In 408 AD, Rufinus was at the monastery in Sicily. While there, he was engaged in translating the Homilies of Origen when he died in 410 AD.

On the Old Roman Creed


Jerome was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius and was the most learned of the Fathers of the Western Church. He is one of the early Doctors of the Church. He was born about the year 342 AD at Stridonius, a small town at the head of the Adriatic, near the Episcopal city of Aquileia. His father was a Christian and took care that his son was well instructed at home, then sent him to Rome where the young man's teachers were the famous pagan grammarian Donatus and Victorinus, a Christian rhetorician. The literary activity of St. Jerome, although very prolific, may be summed up under a few principal heads: works on the Bible; theological controversies; historical works; various letters and translations.

From 374-379 AD Jerome led an ascetical life in the desert of Chalcis south-west of Antioch. He was ordained a priest at Antioch then went to Constantinople in 380-81 AD. While there, a friendship sprang up between him and St. Gregory of Nazianzus (One of the Doctors of the Church and wrote about the Trinity). A first period extends to his time in Rome in 382 AD, a period of preparation. From this period he provided the translation of the homilies of Origen on Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Isaias (379-81 AD) and about the same time the translation of the Chronicle of Eusebius.

A second period extends from his time is Rome to the beginning of the translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew (382-390 AD). During this period he asserted itself under the influence of Pope Damasus, which caused him to retire to Bethlehem. From 382 AD to August 385 AD he made another trip to Rome, not far from Pope Damasus. In 382-383 AD he wrote "Altercatio Luciferiani et Orthodoxi" and "De Perpetua Virginitate B. Mariae; Adversus Helvidium". Pope Damasus appointed him confidential secretary and librarian and commissioned him to begin his work of rendering the Bible into Latin. When the pope died in December 384 AD his position became a very difficult one. His harsh criticisms had made him bitter enemies and they tried to ruin him. After a few months he was compelled to leave Rome. He reached Bethlehem in 386 AD by way of Antioch and Alexandria. He settled there in a monastery near a convent founded by two Roman ladies who followed him to Palestine. He led a life of asceticism and study but was troubled by controversies, one with Rufinus and the other with the Pelagians.

In 384 AD he wrote the correction of the Latin version of the Four Gospels. He also made a first revision of the Latin Psalms according to the accepted text of the Septuagint (Roman Psalter) and revised the Latin version of the Book of Job, after the accepted version of the Septuagint. In 385 AD, he translated the Epistles of St. Paul. Between 386 AD and 391 AD he made a second revision of the Latin Psalter, this time according to the text of the "Hexapla" of Origen. In 387-388 AD he wrote the commentaries on the Epistles to Philemon, to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to Titus and in 389-390 AD on Ecclesiastes.

Between 390 and 405 AD, Jerome gave all his attention to the translation of the Old Testament. Between 390-394 AD he translated the Books of Samuel and Kings, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Esdras, and Paralipomena. Towards 395 A.D Jerome found himself in a difficult situation and practically excommunicated by the bishop of Jerusalem who threatened him with expulsion and without many powerful friends. He succeeded in reversing the situation when he attacked Origenism. He gained Theophilus of Alexandria as his friend and became involved in the problem of the Three Brothers, taking the side of Theophilus against John Chrysostom.

In the last period of his life, from 405 to 420 AD, Jerome took up the series of his commentaries interrupted for seven years. In 406, he commented on Osee, Joel, Amos, Zacharias, Malachias; in 408 AD, on Daniel; from 408 to 410 AD, on the remainder of Isaias; from 410 to 415 AD, on Ezechiel; from 415-420 AD, on Jeremias.

The correspondence of St. Jerome is one of the best known parts of his literary output. It comprises about one hundred and twenty letters from him and several from his correspondents. He died at Bethlehem in 420. The writings of Jerome express a scholarship unsurpassed in the early church and helped to create the cultural tradition of the Middle Ages. A difficult and hot-tempered man, Jerome made many enemies, but his correspondence with friends and enemies alike is of great interest, particularly that with Saint Augustine.

De Perpetua Virginitate B. Mariae

Altercatio Luciferiani et Orthodoxi

Jerome Letters (His most read writings after the Vulgate Bible):

Jerome Letters: 1-38

Jerome Letters: 39-53

Jerome Letters: 54-72

Jerome Letters: 73-107

Jerome Letters: 108-124

Jerome Letters: 125-150


At a council in 350 AD, St. Athanasius was replaced in his See.


Under Constantius the Arians came into power again and condemned Marcellus together with Athanasius.


Pontius Meropius Anicius Paulinus was a Roman senator who converted to severe monasticism in 394 AD. He eventually became bishop of Nola, helped to resolve the disputed election of Pope Boniface I, and was recognized as a saint.

He owes his conversion to his wife, to Bishop Delphinus of Bordeaux and his successor the Presbyter Amandus, and to St. Martin of Tours, who had cured him of some disease of the eye. Delphinus baptized both him and his brother at the same time in 389 AD. Later, when Paulinus lost his only child eight days after birth and threatened with the charge of having murdered his brother, he and his wife decided to withdraw from the world, and to enter the monastic life. Paulinus then decided to live on his estates in Spain so he and his wife went about 390 AD. In 393 AD or 394 AD and after some resistance from Paulinus he was ordained a priest on Christmas by Lampius, bishop of Barcelona. This was similar to what happened with Augustine of Hippo, who had been ordained against his will in Hippo Regius in 391 AD by a crowd cooperating with Bishop Valerius.

Many of Paulinus's letters to his contemporaries, including Ausonius and Sulpicius Severus in southern Gaul, Victricius of Rouen in northern Gaul, and Augustine in Africa and Jerome in Jerusalem are preserved. Paulinus may have been indirectly responsible for Augustine's Confessions. Paulinus wrote to Alypius, bishop of Thagaste and close friend of Augustine asking about his conversion and taking up of the ascetic life. Alypius's autobiographical response did not survive but Augustine's answer to that question is the Confessions.

Around 410 AD Paulinus was chosen bishop of Nola. Like a growing number of aristocrats in the late 4th and early 5th centuries who were entering the clergy rather than taking up the more usual administrative careers in the imperial service Paulinus spent a great deal of his money on his chosen church and city. He promoted the cult of St Felix and assisted pilgrims. In later life Paulinus, by then a highly respected church authority, participated in multiple church synods investigating various ecclesiastical controversies of the time, including Pelagianism. He died in Nola in 431 AD.


Saint Augustine, Aurelius Augustinus, was born November 13, 354 AD in Tagaste Algeria, a provincial Roman city to a Christian mother, Saint Monica.. He was a Berber, a major ethnic group native to North Africa comprising the Numidians and Mauri. At the age of 11 Augustine was sent to school at Madaurus, a small Numidian city noted for its pagan culture. There he became very familiar with Latin literature, as well as pagan beliefs and practices. In 369 AD and 370 AD, he remained at home. During this period he read Cicero's dialogue Hortensius, which he described as leaving a lasting impression on him and sparking his interest in philosophy. He resisted his mother's pleas to become Christian.

At age seventeen and through the generosity of a fellow citizen Romanianus, he went to Carthage to continue his education in rhetoric. Although raised as a Catholic, he lived as a pagan intellectual and became a Manichean. Augustine lived a hedonistic lifestyle and developed a relationship with a young woman who would be his concubine for over fifteen years. During this period he had a son, Adeodatus. During the years 373 AD and 374 AD, Augustine taught grammar at Tagaste. The following year, he moved to Carthage to conduct a school of rhetoric there and remained there for the next nine years. Disturbed by the behavior of his students, in 383 AD he moved to Rome to establish a school there, where he believed the best and brightest rhetoricians practiced. However, Augustine was disappointed with the Roman schools, which he found to be apathetic. Once the time came for his students to pay their fees, they simply left or changed teachers. Manichaean friends introduced him to the Prefect of the City of Rome, Symmachus, who had been asked to provide a professor of rhetoric for the imperial court at Milan.

While in Carthage, he started to move away from Manichaeism. In Rome, he completely turned away from it. In Milan, his mother Monica pressured him to become a Catholic. Augustine's own studies in Neoplatonism were also leading him in this direction and his friend Simplicianus urged him that way as well. But it was Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, who had the most influence over Augustine. Ambrose was a master of rhetoric like Augustine himself, but older and more experienced. Augustine's mother had followed him to Milan and he allowed her to arrange a society marriage, for which he abandoned his concubine (however he had to wait two years until his fiancee came of age and in the meantime he promptly took up with another woman!). It was during this period that he uttered his famous prayer, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet" (da mihi castitatem et continentiam, sed noli modo).

In the summer of 386 AD after having read an account of the life of Saint Anthony of the Desert (written by Athanasius – see above) which greatly inspired him, Augustine underwent a profound personal crisis and decided to convert to Catholic Christianity, abandon his career in rhetoric, quit his teaching position in Milan, give up any ideas of marriage and devote himself entirely to serving God and the practices of priesthood, which included celibacy. Key to this conversion was the voice of an unseen child he heard while in his garden in Milan telling him in a sing-song voice to "tolle lege" ("take up and read"). He grabbed the nearest text to him, which was Paul's Epistle to the Romans and opened it at random to 13:13-14, which read: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." This fact and the rest of his spiritual journey are recounted in his famous Confessions, which became a classic of both Christian theology and world literature. Ambrose baptized Augustine, along with his son, Adeodatus, at Easter Vigil in 387 AD in Milan, and soon thereafter in 388 AD he returned to Africa. On his way back to Africa his mother died, as did his son soon after, leaving him alone in the world without family.

Upon his return to north Africa he sold his patrimony and gave the money to the poor. The only thing he kept was the family house which he converted into a monastic foundation for himself and a group of friends. In 391 AD he was ordained a priest in Hippo Regius (now Annaba, in Algeria). He became a famous preacher (more than 350 preserved sermons are believed to be authentic), and was noted for combating the Manichaean religion, to which he had formerly adhered. In 396 AD he was made coadjutor bishop of Hippo, and became full bishop shortly thereafter. He remained in this position at Hippo until his death in 430 AD. He left his monastery, but continued to lead a monastic life in the episcopal residence. He left a Rule (Regula) for his monastery that has led him to be designated the "patron saint of Regular Clergy", that is, Clergy who live by a monastic rule.

Augustine died on August 28, 430 AD during the siege of Hippo by the Vandals. He is said to have encouraged its citizens to resist the attacks, primarily on the grounds that the Vandals adhered to Arianism. It is also said that he died just as the Vandals were tearing down the city walls of Hippo. After conquering the city, the Vandals destroyed all of it but Augustine's cathedral and library, which they left untouched. Tradition indicates that his body was later moved to Pavia, where it is said to remain to this day.

Augustine was canonized by popular acclaim, and later recognized as a Doctor of the Church in 1303 AD by Pope Boniface VIII.

Augustine was one of the most prolific Latin authors, and the list of his works consists of more than a hundred separate titles including Confessions, City of God, On Christian Doctrine. On the Trinity (which is considered one of the greatest theological works of all time). He was influenced by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Virgil, Paul of Tarsus and Saint Ambrose.

Collection of Saint Augustine's Works including 270 Letters, City of God (all 22 Chapters), Various Sermons on the Gospel and Expositions on the Psalms, Reply to Faustus the Manichean (Books 1-33).

Saint Augustine's Confessions and Enchiridion

Rule of Saint Augustine

On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, and on the Baptism of Infants

On the Trinity:

Books 1-4:

Books 5-8:

Books 9-14:

Book 15 Summary and Conclusion:


Born in Sardinia, he was a lector in Rome before he went to Vercelli ( northern Italy) and when the bishop died in 340 AD Eusebius was acclaimed bishop of that city by the clergy and the people and received Episcopal consecration at the hands of Pope Julius I. According to a letter to him from Ambrose, he was the first monk in the West who was appointed bishop.

In 354 AD Pope Liberius sent Eusebius and Bishop Lucifer of Cagliari to the Emperor Constantius II at Arles in Gaul for the purpose of inducing him to convoke a council expected to reconcile the dissentions between the Arian and the Trinitarian Christians over the issue of Christ's divinity.

The synod was held in Milan in 355 AD. It was at once evident that the Emperor would tolerate only a pro-Arian solution and that he was out to condemn Athanasius. The gathered orthodox bishops, in the majority, insisted that their first action at the council be to approve the Nicene Creed. Constantius refused, and demanded the condemnation of St. Athanasius. Eusebius said, "You can't condemn a man without giving him a hearing." The emperor fumed and threatened to kill Eusebius and the others. Pressed to attend, he was refused admittance for ten days, until the document condemning St. Athanasius had been drawn up for the signature of the bishops. Eusebius refused to sign and was exiled, first to Scythopolis in Syria, under the watchful eye of the Arian bishop Patrophilus, whom Eusebius calls his jailer. At first he was treated with some consideration, but this phase did not last. The Arians now began to insult him, dragging him through the streets half naked. He was shut up in a small room and denied access to his friends. Four days he underwent a sort of "hunger strike." He was then allowed to return to his lodgings, but three weeks later he was again dragged out, beaten, robbed and isolated. His persecutors made every effort to get him to conform to the Arian doctrine. Later he was transferred from Palestine to Cappadocia, and lastly to the Thebaid, in Upper Egypt. In his writings of this period, he expressed his desire to suffer death for truth.

After being recalled from exile, Eusebius went to Alexandria to organize with Athanasius the synod of 362 AD under their joint presidency. Though declaring the divinity of the Holy Spirit and the orthodox doctrine concerning the Incarnation, the synod agreed to deal mildly with the repentant apostate bishops but did impose severe penalties upon the leaders of several of the Arianizing factions.

Eusebius then went to Antioch to reconcile the adherents of Eustathius of Antioch who had been deposed and exiled by the Arians in 331 AD with the Meletians. Since Meletius' election in 361 AD was brought about chiefly by the Arians, the Eustathians would not recognize him although he solemnly proclaimed his orthodox faith after his Episcopal consecration. The Alexandrian synod had desired that Eusebius should reconcile the Eustathians with Bishop Meletius by purging his election of whatever might have been irregular in it but Eusebius, upon arriving at Antioch, found that his brother legate Lucifer had consecrated Paulinus the leader of the Eustathians as Bishop of Antioch.

Unable to reconcile the factions at Antioch, he visited other churches of the East in the interest of promulgating and enforcing the orthodox Trinitarian faith and finally returned to Italy through Illyricum. Having arrived at Vercelli in 363 AD he assisted the zealous St. Hilary of Poitiers in the suppression of Arianism in the Western Church and was one of the chief opponents of the Arian bishop Auxentius of Milan. The Roman Catholic Church honors him as a martyr.

His writings are three letters: one a brief reply to Constantius that he would attend the council at Milan but would do there whatever should seem to him right and according to the will of God; and the two to the church at Vercelli and to Gregory of Elvira.


Under Constantius the Arians came into power again and condemned Marcellus together with Athanasius.


Sulpicius Severus was an aristocrat of Aquitaine and an up and coming lawyer till his wife's death caused him to pause and take stock of his life.  The example of his friend, St. Paulinus of Nola, and the exhortations of St. Martin, bishop of Tours, led to his conversion to the monastic life.  He settled on an estate in Southern Gaul and set to work writing the life of St. Martin who was still alive at the time but who dies in 397 AD. It still remains the most popular biography of that very popular saint. The work became very influential on later authors writing lives of the saints.

Sulpicius' correspondence with his friend Paulinus of Nola tells us something of Sulpicius' own life and opinions and more of his actions in founding a monastery and decorating its buildings. Both men, members of the late Roman senatorial aristocracy, turned to ecclesiastical careers.

Sulpicius wrote a world chronicle, (Chronicorum Libri duo or Historia sacra), which extends from the creation of the world to A. D. 400, omitting the historical events recorded in the New Testament writings. It is an important source of information for the Arian controversy, especially with regard to Gaul.

Life of Saint Martin


In 362 was held one of the most important of these councils. It was presided over by St. Athanasius and St. Eusebius of Vercelli, and was directed against those who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the human soul of Our Lord, and His Divinity. Mild measures were agreed on for those apostate bishops who repented, but severe penance was decreed for the chief leaders of the great heresies that had been devastating the Christian Church.


In 363 AD, another council met under St. Athanasius for the purpose of submitting to the new Emperor Jovian an account of the truth faith. Somewhat similar was the purpose of the Council of 364.


The Council of 370 AD approved the action of Pope Damasus in condemning Urascius and Valens ( Arianism) and expressed its surprise that Auxentius was still tolerated at Milan.


Patrick was born at Banna Venta Berniae, Calpornius. His father was a deacon, his grandfather Potitus a priest. He was a Roman Britain born Christian missionary and the patron saint of Ireland along with Brigid of Kildare and Columba. When he was about sixteen, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland where he worked as a herdsman and lived for six years before escaping and returning to his family. He wrote that his faith grew in captivity and that he prayed daily. After six years he heard a voice telling him that he would soon go home and then that his ship was ready. Fleeing his master, he travelled to a port, two hundred miles away he says, where he found a ship and after various adventures returned home to his family, now in his early twenties.

He entered the church, as his father and grandfather had before him, becoming a deacon and a bishop. He later returned to Ireland as a missionary in the north and west of the island, but little is known about the places where he worked and no link can be made between Patrick and any church. By the eighth century he had become the patron saint of Ireland. The Irish monastery system evolved after the time of Patrick and the Irish church did not develop the diocesan model that Patrick and the other early missionaries had tried to establish.

Two Latin letters survive which are generally accepted to have been written by Patrick. These are the Declaration (Latin: Confessio) and the Letter to the soldiers of Coroticus (Latin: Epistola). The Declaration is the more important of the two. In it Patrick gives a short account of his life and his mission.

Legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the island, though post glacial Ireland never had snakes. One suggestion is that snakes referred to the serpent symbolism of the Druids of that time and place as shown on coins minted in Gaul. It could have referred to beliefs such as Pelagianism, symbolized as serpents. Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock, a 3-leaved clover, using it to highlight the Christian belief of 'three divine persons in the one God' (as opposed to the Arian belief that was popular at that time).


Saint Cyril was the Patriarch of Alexandria when the city was at its height of influence and power within the Roman Empire. Cyril wrote extensively and was a leading protagonist in the Christological controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries. He was a central figure in the First Council of Ephesus in 431 AD which led to the deposition of Nestorius as Archbishop of Constantinople. Cyril is among the patristic fathers and the Doctors of the Church and his reputation within the Christian world has resulted in his titles "Pillar of Faith" and "Seal of all the Fathers".

Cyril was born about 378 in the small town of Theodosios, Egypt. After his birth his mother's brother (or uncle) Theophilus rose to the powerful position of Patriarch of Alexandria. His mother remained close to her brother and under his guidance St. Cyril was well educated. His education showed through his knowledge, in his writings of Christian writers of his day, including Eusebius, Origen, Didymus, and writers of the Alexandrian church. He received the formal education standard for his day. He studied grammar from age twelve to fourteen (390-392 AD), rhetoric and humanities from fifteen to twenty (393-397 AD) and finally theology and biblical studies (398-402 AD). He accompanied Theophilus to Constantinople in 403 and was present at the Synod of the Oak that deposed John Chrysostom, whom he believed guilty of the charges against him.

He succeeded his uncle Theophilus as patriarch of Alexandria on his death in 412 AD but only after a riot between Cyril's supporters and the followers of his rival Timotheus. Cyril at once began a series of attacks against the Novatians, whose churches he closed and the Jews whom he drove from the city and the governor Orestes, with whom he disagreed about some of his actions. In 430 AD Cyril became embroiled with Nestorius, patriarch of Constantinople, who was preaching that Mary was not the Mother of God since Christ was Divine and not human and consequently she should not have the word theotokos (God-bearer) applied to her.

He persuaded Pope Celestine to convoke a synod at Rome which condemned Nestorius, and then did the same at his own synod in Alexandria. Celestine directed Cyril to depose Nestorius, and in 431 AD Cyril presided over the third General Council at Ephesus, attended by some two hundred bishops, who condemned all the tenets of Nestorius and his followers before the arrival of Archbishop John of Antioch and forty-two followers who believed Nestorius was innocent. When they found what had been done, they held a council of their own and deposed Cyril. Emperor Theodosius arrested both Cyril and Nestorius but released Cyril on the arrival of Papal Legates who confirmed the council's actions against Nestorius and declared Cyril innocent of all charges. Two years later, Archbishop John, representing the moderate Antiochene bishops together with Cyril reached an agreement and joined in the condemnation. Nestorius was forced into exile.

Cyril became noted in Church history, because of his fight for the title "Mother of God" during the Council of Ephesus (431 AD). His writings include the homily given in Ephesus and several other sermons.In several writings, Cyril focuses on the love of Jesus to his mother. On the Cross, he overcomes his pain and thinks of his mother. At the wedding in Canan, he bows to her wishes. The overwhelming merit of Cyril of Alexandria is the cementation of the centre of dogmatic Mariology for all times. Cyril is credited with creating a basis for all other Mariological developments through his teaching of the blessed Virgin Mary, as the Mother of God.

During the rest of his life, Cyril wrote treatises that clarified the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation and that helped prevent Nestorianism and Pelagianism from taking long-term deep root in the Christian community. He was the most brilliant theologian of the Alexandrian tradition. His writings are characterized by accurate thinking, precise exposition, and great reasoning skills. Among his writings are commentaries on John, Luke, and the Pentateuch, treatises on dogmatic theology, and Apologia against Julian the Apostate, and letters and sermons. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Leo XIII in 1882. Pope Benedict, in a General Audience on Wednesday, October 3 2007, said, "His commentaries on many of the New and Old Testament Books are important, including those on the entire Pentateuch, Isaiah, the Psalms and the Gospels of John and Luke. Also important are his many doctrinal works, in which the defense of the Trinitarian faith against the Arian and Nestorian theses recurs. The basis of Cyril's teaching is the ecclesiastical tradition and in particular, as I mentioned, the writings of Athanasius, his great Predecessor in the See of Alexandria. Among Cyril's other writings, the books Against Julian deserve mention. They were the last great response to the anti-Christian controversies, probably dictated by the Bishop of Alexandria in the last years of his life to respond to the work Against the Galileans, composed many years earlier in 363 by the Emperor known as the "Apostate" for having abandoned the Christianity in which he was raised. ( )

Mary, Mother of God Theotokos Sermon Excerpt

A Personal Web page with a collection of St. Cyril's


Socrates of Constantinople was a Greek Christian church historian, a contemporary of Theodoret who used his work. He was born at Constantinople about 380 AD. The date of his death is unknown. Even in ancient times nothing seems to have been known of his life except what can be gathered from notices in his Historia Ecclesiastica ("Church History"), which is a departure from its model, Eusebius of Caesarea, in emphasizing the place of the Emperor in church affairs and in giving secular as well as church history.

The history covers the years 305-439 AD and experts believe it was finished in 439 AD or soon thereafter and certainly during the lifetime of Emperor Theodosius II. The purpose of the history is to continue the work of Eusebius of Caesarea. It relates in simple Greek language what the Church experienced from the days of Constantine to the writer's time.

Socrates' account is in many respects well balanced. His membership of the minority Novatian church possibly enables him to take up a relatively detached approach to developments in the Great Church. He is critical of St. John Chrysostom. He is careful not to use hyperbolic titles when referring to prominent personalities in Church and State.

MELETIUS OF ANTIOCH (unknown - 381 AD)

Meletius was a member of one of the noblest families of Lesser Armenia and was born in the city of Melitene, year unknown. Renowned for his piety and meek demeanor, he was elected to the see of Sebastea in the year 357 AD but met with such violent opposition that he left his diocese and lived in the desert later retiring to the town of Beria in Syria.

At that time, Eudoxus, Archbishop of Antioch, a proponent of the Arian heresy, was attracted by the wealth of the see of Constantinople and wished to transfer there. His opportunity came when the infamous heretic Macedonius, who had held the position of archpastor in Constantinople was expelled.

The inhabitants of Antioch gathered in an assembly and took counsel together to decide whom to elect to take the place of Eudoxus. The greater portion of those present at this council were Arians, while the number of orthodox was small. They were looked down upon and referred to as "Eustathians," after St. Eustathius who, when archbishop of Antioch, had suffered banishment for the Orthodox Faith. At this council the name of Meletius was prominent and everyone wished to have him as the archbishop. The Arians especially so because they held him to be of one mind with themselves and hoped that he would be able to bring the Eustathians to accept their doctrine and that he would teach the Arian error to all of Antioch. Meletius was unanimously elected to the Archepiscopal cathedral at this council. Everyone confirmed the assembly's resolution with their own signatures and entrusted the document for safekeeping to the holy Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata. The petition was sent to Meletius together with an imperial decree and with great honor they conducted him to Antioch. Epiphanius of Cyprus was alive at this time and also bore witness concerning Meletius, writing of him: "This man [Meletius] is held in great reverence among us; fitting praise is everywhere heard spoken of him. In his life he is constant, honorable; his customs are rightly lauded. The people love him for his blameless life, and all are greatly amazed by him."

After being installed in the See of Antioch, Meletius began to instruct the people in virtuous living and upright morals making ready the way to true and right belief within their hearts. He believed that he could sow the seeds of orthodoxy in the souls of his flock with great success if he first amended their morals. At that time Meletius ordained to the Diaconate Basil the Great, who was traveling to Jerusalem through Antioch. St. John Chrysostom, another remarkable man of the time, was then still a young boy. He had been baptized by the Meletius and was among the crowd that went forth to meet him while St. Basil was sojourning in Antioch, St. John was still in school.

When the Emperor Constantius arrived in Antioch, Meletius and several other hierarchs were ordered to publicly preach on the passage from the Book of Proverbs: "The Lord made me the beginning of His ways for His works" (Prov. 8:22). George of Laodicea was the first to speak, explaining the text in an Arian sense; then Acacius of Caesarea spoke, propounding the heresy that the Son is only like the Father; but finally Meletius rose to speak, maintaining that what was here spoken of in the passage from Proverbs was not a creation, but rather a new aspect of Gods economy, in this manner connecting it with the Incarnation of Christ. Thus he glorified the Faith which had been confirmed at the Council of Nicaea, professing that the Son of God is co-eternal, consubstantial and equal with God the Father, that He is not a created Being and that He is the Creator of all creation. His orthodoxy became apparent to all present as he openly instructed the people. On hearing this, the archdeacon of the Church of Antioch, who was an adherent of Arius, approached his archbishop and boldly clapped his hand over Meletius's mouth so that he was not able to continue speaking. Instead, he extending his hand toward the people confessed the Holy Trinity with his fingers more clearly than with his tongue. At first he showed them three fingers, representing thus the three Persons of the Godhead; and then, withdrawing two, he left one in place, thus demonstrating that there is one Godhead in three Persons. Seeing this, the archdeacon released his mouth and laid hold of his arm, which had so clearly represented the Trinity. His mouth freed, however, Meletius began to confess and glorify the one Trinity vocally. He exhorted the people who were listening to him and held steadfastly to the confession confirmed at the Council of Nicaea. "Every one who rejecteth the dogmas of the Council of Nicaea," said he "standeth far from the truth." Thus, he expounded the Homousian formula.

The Arians were very upset and felt they were deceived in their hope that Meletius was one of their own party. They drove him from the church and began to revile him whenever they could claiming he was a heretic. The Emperor Constantius was persuaded to banish Meletius. He was arrested at night and sent back to his native land. The successor of Meletius was Euzoeus, who had fallen with Arius under the ban of Athanasius.

Several years later, the Emperor Constantius died, and Julian the Apostate succeeded to the throne in his place. Julian made a hypocritical display of piety and freed all bishops who had been exiled, commanding them to return to their Sees. Meletius also returned from banishment to Antioch. He found that the Church had split into two factions: some awaited the return of St. Meletius to the Archepiscopal throne; others, refusing to wait for his return, had elected Paulinus as their who had been consecrated by a bishop from Italy named Lucifer of Cagliari, an outspoken defender of the Nicaean Council. They were an anti-Arian sect, stricter adherents of the Homousian formula, maintaining the tradition of the deposed bishop Eustathius

The adherents of Bishop Paulinus were referred to as "Paulinians"; those of St. Meletius were called "Meletians." The cause of the division was also that the Paulinians refused to give communion to reformed followers of Arius who had returned through the teaching of Meletius. This they refused to do for two reasons: first, because such persons had received baptism from Arians; second, because Arians had elected Meletius to the Archepiscopate of Antioch.

When Emperor Julian died the pious Jovian ascended the throne. Meletius became the pastor in Antioch and the Emperor honored and greatly loved him. The Arians began to fear him. Certain of their bishops even began to patronize him wishing to please the Emperor and Meletius.

Meletius and Eusebius of Samosata called a local council. At it, the Arians confessed the consubstantiality of the Son and the Father and acknowledged as correct the Faith as confirmed at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea; but this confession was insincere and false because they renounced it as soon as Jovian died and Valens took over the throne. The Arians converted the emperor to their thinking and again began to drive out the Church of the orthodox and once more expelled its pastors. Encouraged by the heretics, he banished Meletius who remained in exile until the death of Valens. A further complication was added when, in 375 AD, Vitalius, one of Meletius' prebyters, was also consecrated bishop by the heretical bishop Apollinaris of Laodicea.

After Valens, the pious Emperor Gratian ascended the throne. Then again the Orthodox hierarchs were summoned from exile by imperial decree and occupied their sees unhindered. Thus was it that Meletius returned to his cathedral of Antioch for the third time, but the disagreement among the faithful over which of the two Orthodox bishops to accept — Meletius or Paulinus — still continued.

Meanwhile, under the influence of his situation, Meletius had been more and more approximating to the views of Nicene Creed. Basil of Caesarea, throwing over the cause of Eustathius, championed that of Meletius who, when after the death of Valens had returned in triumph to Antioch and was hailed as the leader of Eastern orthodoxy. As such he presided in October 379, over the great synod of Antioch, in which the dogmatic agreement of East and West was established. He helped Gregory Nazianzus to the See of Constantinople and consecrated him and also presided over the Second Ecumenical Council at Constantinople in 381 AD. He died soon after the opening of the council.


The Melitians joined the Arians and caused more dissension than ever, being among the worst enemies of Athanasius. The Melitians ultimately died out around the middle of the fifth century. In the short term though, the Council did not solve the problems it was convened to discuss and a period of conflict and upheaval continued for some time. Constantine was succeeded by two Arian Emperors in the Eastern Empire. Arians and the Meletians soon regained nearly all of the rights they had lost and consequently, Arianism continued to spread and to cause division in the Church during the remainder of the fourth century. Almost immediately, Eusebius of Nicomedia, an Arian bishop and cousin to Constantine used his influence at court to sway Constantine's favor from the orthodox Nicene bishops to the Arians. Eustathius of Antioch was deposed and exiled in 330 AD. Athanasius, who had succeeded Alexander as Bishop of Alexandria, was deposed by the First Synod of Tyre in 335 AD and Marcellus of Ancyra followed him in 336 AD. Arius himself returned to Constantinople to be readmitted into the Church, but died shortly before he could be received. Some think he was poisoned on his way to receive Communion. Constantine died the next year, after finally receiving baptism from his cousin the Arian Bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia and with his passing, the first round in the battle after the Council of Nicaea was ended.

From then till 350 AD the Church was free from Arian persecution. Then the new Emperor Constantius openly denounced the Nicaean Creed and arrested, murdered, or imprisoned the bishops who opposed his policy. Synods after synods were held to condemn the Nicaean Creed and Arianism spread so wide that St. Jerome wrote that the whole world woke up one day and found itself Arian.

In 378 AD a Catholic general from Spain, Theodosius, became Emperor(347 - 395 A.D). He knew that the only way to bring peace in the empire was the strict observance of the decrees of the Council of Nicaea and the doctrine of Homo-ousion. Hence, the eastern bishops were called to a Council with the sole purpose of affirming the Nicaean Creed and the Homo-ousion formula. Theodosius 1, proclaimed Christianity as the State Religion.

The Council met in 381 AD in the Cathedral of Constantinople. There were only 150 bishops in all. Meletus the bishop of Antioch presided, but as he was not duly elected by Rome to be the bishop of Antioch, there was trouble. Meletus was supported by many bishops including Sts. Basil, Gregory of Niza, and Gregory Nazianzen. Peace was restored when Meletus died suddenly even before the Council met. The bishop of Constantinople, St. Gregory Nazianzen presided over the meeting.

The first few days focused on reviewing the Creed of Nicaea and the word "Homo-ousion". They were approved. Then the Council took up the case of Macedonius, a priest and one time bishop in Constantinople. He taught a new doctrine known as Macedonianism which says: The Holy Spirit is a mere creature and a ministering angel. Hence he is not God. After condemning his doctrines, the bishops at the Council formulated a new statement to define the nature of the Holy Spirit that was added to the Nicaean Creed:

"And we believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who spoke through the prophets;
and in the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
We look forward to the resurrection of the body
and life of the world to come."

During the Councils meeting, the concept of "The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost" was developed by the Council. The "Trinity" was identified as the "Niceno - Constantinopolitan Creed," which the Christian Religion follows to this day. Then the Council took up the case of Apollinaris, bishop of Laodicea, who taught that Jesus had no soul and hence was no real man, but only God. His doctrines were condemned and he was asked to recant and return to the true fold. He refused and died unrepentant in 392 AD.

Finally, it was enacted in this Council that the bishop of Constantinople will have the primacy of honor over all bishops after the bishop of Rome, since Constantinople is the "New Rome".

Constantinopolitan Creed

LEO THE GREAT (390 - 461 AD)

Pope Saint Leo I or Pope Saint Leo the Great was a Roman aristocrat and the first Pope to receive the title "the Great". He is also a Doctor of the Church, and a leading figure in the centralization of the organization of the Roman Catholic Church.

He was a native of Tuscany. By 431 AD he was a deacon and held a sufficiently important position that Cyril of Alexandria wrote to him in order that Rome's influence should be applied against the claims of Juvenal of Jerusalem to patriarchal jurisdiction over Palestine.

At the Second Council of Ephesus, Leo's representatives delivered his famous Tome, the statement of the faith of the Roman Church in the form of a letter addressed to Flavian which repeats, in close adherence to Augustine, the formulas of western Christology. The council did not read the letter and paid no attention to the protests of Leo's legates but deposed Flavian and Eusebius who appealed to Rome.

In 451 Leo further tried to restore order to the Eastern churches at the Council of Chalcedon. According to tradition after Leo had finished his decree the 630 bishops and 4 papal legates present exclaimed unanimously, "What Leo believes we all believe, anathema to him who believes anything else. Peter has spoken through the mouth of Leo." This is taken to mean that popes are the rightful successors to St. Peter.

He is perhaps best known for having met Attila the Hun outside Rome near Governolo in 452 AD in a successful attempt to persuade the king not to ransack the city. According to Prosper of Aquitaine, he was so impressed by him that he withdrew. Unfortunately Leo's intercession could not prevent the sack of the city by the Vandals in 455 AD, but murder and arson were repressed by his influence. He died probably on November 10, 461 AD.

The significance of Leo's pontificate lies in the fact of his assertion of the universal jurisdiction of the Roman bishop, which comes out in his letters, and still more in his ninety-six extant orations. This assertion is commonly referred to as the doctrine of Petrine supremacy.

According to him the Church is built upon Peter, as referenced in the promise of Matthew 16:16-19. Peter participates in everything which is Christ's. What the other apostles have in common with him they have through him. What is true of Peter is true also of his successors. Every other bishop is charged with the care of his own special flock, the Roman with that of the whole Church. Other bishops are only his assistants in this great task. In Leo's eyes the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon acquired their validity from his confirmation.

Leo the Great's 97 Sermons


Prosper was educated at Marseille. By 429 AD he was corresponding with Augustine. In 431 AD he appeared in Rome to interview Pope Celestine I regarding the teachings of Augustine and there is no further trace of him until 440 AD. Prosper was soon in Rome, attached to the pope in some secretarial or notarial capacity. The date of his death is not known, but his chronicle goes as far as 455 AD.

Prosper was a layman, but he threw himself into the religious controversies of his day, defending Augustine and propagating orthodoxy. In his De vocatione omnium gentium ("The Call of all Nations"), in which the issues of the call to the Gentiles is discussed in the light of Augustine's doctrine of Grace, Prosper appears as the first of the medieval Augustinians.

He attacks the Pelagians in a poem of about 1000 lines, Adversus ingratos, written about 430 AAD. After Augustine's death he wrote three series of Augustinian defences, especially against Vincent of Lerins (Pro Augustino responsiones).

His chief work was his De gratia Dei et libero arbitrio written in 432 AD and written against John Cassian's Collatio. Prosper's Epitoma chronicon (covering the period 379-455 AD) was first composed in 433 and updated several times and finalized in 455 AD. In it, Prosper gives detailed coverage of political events. He covers Attila's invasions of Gaul in 451 AD and Italy in 452 AD in lengthy entries under their respective years.

THEODORET (393 - 457 AD)

His mother who was childless for twelve years was promised his birth by a hermit named Macedonius on the condition he was dedicated to God, whence the name Theodoret ("gift of God"). He was born at Antioch and brought up under the care of the ascetics and acquired a very extensive classical knowledge and, according to Photius, a style of Attic purity.

At a young age he became a lector among the clergy of Antioch, then resided a while in a monastery, was a cleric at Cyrrhus, and in 423 AD became bishop over a diocese about forty miles square and embracing 800 parishes. Theodoret zealously guarded purity of the doctrine despite personal danger. He converted more than 1,000 Marcionites in his diocese, in addition to many Arians and Macedonians. He erected churches and supplied them with relics. He was philanthropic and struggled to secure relief for the people oppressed from taxation. He divided his inheritance among the poor and built baths, bridges, halls and aqueducts using his Episcopal revenues He summoned rhetoricians and physicians and reminded the officials of their duties. He sent letters of encouragement to the persecuted Christians of Persian Armenia, and he gave refuge to the Carthaginians, who fled the rule of the Vandals.

Theodoret stands out prominently in the Christological controversies aroused by Cyril of Alexandria. Theodoret shared in the petition of John I of Antioch to Nestorius to approve of the term theotokos ("mother of God"), and upon the request of John wrote against Cyril's anathemas.

He was a member and spokesman of the deputation of eight from Antioch called by the Emperor to Chalcedon and as a member, would not agree to condemn Nestorius. John, reconciled to Cyril by the emperor's order, sought to bring Theodoret to submission by offering him to be responsible for an eparchy.

Theodoret was determined to preserve the peace of the Church by seeking the adoption of a formula avoiding the unconditional condemnation of Nestorius, and toward the close of 434 strove earnestly for the reconciliation between the Eastern churches. But Cyril refused to compromise and when he opened his attack.

After the death of Cyril, adherents of the Antiochian theology were appointed to bishoprics. Irenaeus the friend of Nestorius, with the cooperation of Theodoret, became bishop of Tyre, in spite of the protests of Dioscorus who was Cyril's successor and who turned specially against Theodoret. He was able to prefer charges against Theodoret and was able to have the court confine Theodoret to Cyrrhus.

The court excluded Theodoret from the Second Council of Ephesus in 449 AD because of his antagonism to Cyril. Because of his Epistle 151 against Cyril and his defense of Diodorus and Theodore, he was condemned without a hearing and excommunicated. His writings were directed to be burned. Theodoret was compelled to leave Cyrrhus and retire to his monastery at Apamea. He made an appeal to Leo the Great, but not until after the death of Theodosius II in 450 was his appeal for a revocation of the judgments against him granted by imperial edict. He was ordered to participate in the Council of Chalcedon, which created violent opposition. He was constrained by the friends of Dioscurus to pronounce the anathema over Nestorius. His conduct shows (though hindered from a statement to that effect) that he performed this with his previous reservation. Upon this he was declared orthodox and rehabilitated.

The Three-Chapter Controversy led to the condemnation of his writings against Cyril in the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD.

In literature Theodoret devoted himself to Scripture. He wrote commentary on the Song of Songs while he was a young bishop, though not before 430 which precedes his comments on the Psalms in 436. His commentaries on the prophets were begun with Daniel, followed by Ezekiel, and then the Minor Prophets. Next those on Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Pauline Epistles

The Church History of Theodoret, which begins with the rise of Arianism and closes with the death of Theodore in 429, is not considered a well written piece of work. It contains many sources otherwise lost, specially letters on the Arian controversy; but it is defective in historical sense and chronological accuracy, and he tends to embellish the narrrative. His sources are also in dispute.

The Religious History, contains the biographies of thirty (ten living) ascetics, held forth as religious models. It is a document of remarkable significance for understanding the complexities of the role of early monastics, both in society and in the church. It is also remarkable for presenting a model of ascetic authority which runs strongly against Athanasius's Life of Antony. Theodoret also compiled a Compendium of Heretical Accounts (Haereticarum fabularum compendium), which, apart from Origen's De principiis and the theological work of John of Damascus, is the only systematic representation of the theology of the Greek Fathers.

He died in 457 AD either at Cyrrhus or at themonastery near Apamea.

Theodoret's Refutation of the Twelve Anathemas of Cyril and Other Works

EUNOMIUS (unknown - 393 AD)

Eunomius studied theology at Alexandria under Aetius, and afterwards came under the influence of Eudoxius of Antioch, who ordained him Deacon. On the recommendation of Eudoxius he was appointed bishop of Cyzicus in 360 AD. Because he expoinded his extreme Arian views Eudoxius was compelled by command of the emperor, Constantius II to remove him from the bishopric within a year of his elevation to it.

The teaching of the Anomoean school, led by Aetius and Eunomius, starting from the conception of God as Creator, argued that between the Creator and created there could be no essential, but at best only a moral, resemblance. "As the Unbegotten, God is an absolutely simple being; an act of generation. would involve a contradiction of His essence by introducing duality into the Godhead." According to Socrates of Constantinople, Eunomius carried his views to a practical issue by altering the baptismal formula. Instead of baptizing in the name of the Trinity, he baptized in the name of the Creator and into the death of Christ. This alteration was regarded by the orthodox as so serious that Eunomians on returning to the church were rebaptized, though the Arians were not.

During the reigns of Julian and Jovian, Eunomius lived in Constantinople in close contact with Aetius, consolidating an heretical party and consecrating schismatical bishops. He then went to live at Chalcedon, but in 367 AD was banished to Mauretania for harbouring Procopius. He was recalled, however, before he reached his destination. The Eunomian heresy was formally condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. The sect maintained a separate existence for some time, but gradually fell away into internal divisions.

In 383 AD the emperor Theodosius, who had demanded a declaration of faith from all party leaders, punished Eunomius for continuing to teach his distinctive doctrines, by banishing him to Halmyris in Scythia Minor. He afterwards resided at Chalcedon and at Caesarea in Cappadocia, from which he was expelled by the inhabitants for writing against their bishop Basil. His last days were spent at his birthplace Dacora, where he died about 393 AD.

His writings were held in high reputation by his party, and their influence was so much dreaded by the orthodox, that more than one imperial edict was issued for their destruction. Consequently his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, mentioned by the historian, Socrates Scholasticus and his epistles, mentioned by Philostorgius and Photius no longer exist.

His first apologetical work, written probably about 360 or 365 AD has been entirely recovered from the celebrated refutation of it by Basil. A second apology, written before 379 AD exists only in the quotations given from it in a refutation by Gregory of Nyssa. The exposition of faith, called forth by the demand of Theodosius still exists.

After Eunomius died, Eutropius ordered that Eunomius' body be moved to Tyana and his books be burned.

Answer to Eunomius Second Book by Gregory of Nyssa

Works of Eunomius


In 399 AD, the council of Alexandria condemned the writings of Origen.


Peter Chrysologus (Greek for golden-worded) was the Archbishop of Ravenna from 433 AD until his death. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Benedict XIII in 1729 AD.

Peter was born in Imola, where he was ordained a deacon by Cornelius, Bishop of Imola. He was made an archdeacon through the influence of Emperor Valentinian III. Pope Sixtus III appointed Peter to be Bishop of Ravenna in 433 AD apparently rejecting the candidate elected by the people of the city. He was a counsellor of Pope Leo the Great. Eutyches appealed to Peter to intervene with the pope on his behalf after he was denounced at a synod held in Constantinople in 448. The text of Peter's letter in response to Eutyches has been preserved in the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon. In it, Peter admonishes Eutyches to accecpt the ruling of the synod and to give obedience to the Bishop of Rome as the successor of Saint Peter.

Known as The Doctor of Homilies, Peter was known for his short but inspired talks. He is said to have been afraid of boring his audience. After hearing his first homily as bishop, Galla Placidia is said to have given him the surname "Chrysologus" (Golden-Worded) by which he is known. She became the patron of many of Peter's projects. He spoke against the Arian and Monophysite teachings, condemning them as heresies and explained topics such as the Apostles' Creed, John the Baptist, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the mystery of the Incarnation in simple and clear language. Peter advocated daily reception of Holy Communion.

In the eighth century Bishop Felix of Ravenna preserved 176 of his homilies. Additional writings can be found in other collections. Peter died in the year 450 or later, when on a visit to his birthplace in Imola.


The Synod of the Oak was a provincial synod, held in Constantinople, which condemned and deposed John Chrysostom as Patriarch of Constantinople.

In the year 402 AD, Theophilus had been summoned by the emperor to Constantinople to apologize before a synod, over which Chrysostom would preside because of several charges which were brought against him by certain Egyptian monks, especially by the so-called four "tall brothers". Theophilus, their former friend, had suddenly turned against them, and had them persecuted as Origenists.

When these monks fled to Constantinople to appeal to Patriarch John, Theophilus wrote to St. Epiphanius of Cyprus requesting him to go to and prevail upon Chrysostom to condemn the Origenists. Epiphanius went but when he realized that Theophilus was using him for his own purposes he left the capital but died on the return trip home. At this time, Chrysostom delivered a sermon against the vain luxury of women. It was reported to the empress as though Chrysostom had been referring to her personally, which only embittered her more against the Patriarch.

Theophilus appeared at Constantinople in June 403 with twenty-nine of his and a good deal of money and all sorts of gifts. He took his lodgings in one of the imperial palaces, and held conferences with all the adversaries of Chrysostom. He retired with his suffragans and seven other bishops to a villa near Constantinople, called Epi Dryn. A long list of unfounded accusations was drawn up against Chrysostom (according to Photius).

The synod now consisted of forty-two archbishops and bishops, many of whom were Syrian and Egyptian bishops inimical to Crysostom and brought by Theophilus. The synod, assembled to judge Theophilus in accordance with the orders of the Emperor, now summoned Chrysostom to present himself and apologize. Severian, Bishop of Gabala in Syria, whom Chrysostom had previously ordered to leave Constantinople because of his involvement in a plot against the patriarch, served as prosecutor. Chrysostom refused to recognize the legality of a synod in which his open enemies were judges. After the third summons Chrysostom, with the consent of the emperor, was declared to be deposed. In order to avoid useless bloodshed he surrendered himself on the third day to the soldiers who awaited him. But the threats of the excited people, and a sudden accident in the imperial palace, frightened the empress. She feared some punishment from heaven for Chrysostom's exile, and immediately ordered his recall. After some hesitation, Chrysostom re-entered the capital amid the great rejoicing of the people. Theophilus and his party saved themselves by fleeing from Constantinople.

Chrysostom's enemies, though, did not rest, and soon succeeded in having him deposed and exiled a second time, on 24 June 404 AD. Saint John Chrysostom's last words, delivered as he lay dying on the road to exile, were "Glory be to God for all things!"


In 430 AD, St. Cyril of Alexandria made known the letter of Pope Celestine 1 (422-432 AD) to the bishops of Egypt in which a pontifical admonition was conveyed to the heresiarch Nestorius. In this council the bishops warned him that unless he retracted his errors, confessed the Catholic faith and reformed his life, they would refuse to look on him as a bishop.


The Council of Ephesus was held at the Church of Mary in Ephesus. The council was called due to the contentious teachings of Nestorius, bishop of Constantinople. St. Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria, appealed to Pope Celestine, charging Nestorius with heresy. The Pope agreed and gave Cyril his authority to serve a notice to Nestorius to recant his views or else be excommunicated. Before the summons arrived, Nestorius convinced the Emperor Theodosius II to hold a General council as such, a platform to argue their opposing views. Approximately 200 bishops were present. The proceedings were conducted in a heated atmosphere of confrontation and recriminations. It is counted as the Third Ecumenical Council, and was chiefly concerned with Nestorianism. The East Roman Emperor Theodosius 11 (408 - 450 A.D) and the West Roman Emperor Valentianus 111 (425 - 455 A.D) convened this Ecumenical Council. The Council decided that Mary was the Mother of Jesus and should be worshipped as such. This became a law and introduced in the "Theodosian Codex".

Nestorianism emphasized the dual natures of Christ. Patriarch Nestorius tried to answer a question considered unsolved: "How can Jesus Christ, being part man, not be partially a sinner as well, since man is by definition a sinner since the Fall". To solve that he taught that Mary, the mother of Jesus gave birth to the incarnate Christ, not the divine Logos who existed before Mary and indeed before time itself. The Logos occupied the part of the human soul (the part of man that was stained by the Fall). But wouldn't the absence of a human soul make Jesus less human? No, Nestorius answered because the human soul was based on the archetype of the Logos only to become polluted by the Fall, therefore Jesus was "more" human for having the Logos and not "less". Consequently, Mary should be called Christotokos, Greek for the "Christ-Bearer" and not Theotokos, Greek for the "God-Bearer." Cyril argued that Nestorianism split Jesus in half and denied that he was both human and divine. This was essentially a Christological controversy.

At the urging of its president, Cyril of Alexandria, the Council denounced Nestorius' teaching as erroneous and decreed that Jesus was one person, not two separate people. Complete God and complete man with a rational soul and body. The Virgin Mary was to be called Theotokos because she bore and gave birth to God as a man. This council was originally disputed because Cyril started the council prematurely without all the legates and bishops present. This caused the Eastern bishops, led by John of Antioch, to hold a competing council where they disputed Cyril's council. Over time, Cyril would eventually triumph. This did not resolve the debate over the union of the two natures of Christ and related issues were debated later at the Council of Chalcedon.

The Council of Ephesus also declared the text of the Nicene Creed of 381 AD to be complete and forbade any additional change (addition or deletion) to it. In addition, it condemned Pelagianism (In that humanity has full control, and thus full responsibility, for its own salvation.)

The Council of Ephesius 431 AD

PROCLUS (Died 447 AD)

His place and year of birth are unknown. He was a Lector at a very early age and was fervent about attending school. He became devoted to the study of rhetoric. When he grew up, he was in constant communication with Atticus and was made his secretary.

As the secretary to Atticus of Constantinople, who was Archbishop from 406-425 AD, he was also ordained a Deacon and priest. Atticus' successor, Sisinnius I, consecrated him Bishop of Cyzicus, but the people there refused to receive him, so he remained at Constantinople. On the death of Sisinnius, the famous Nestorius succeeded as Archbishop of Constantinople from 428-431 AD and early in 429 AD, on a festival of the Theotokos (Virgin Mary), Proclus preached his celebrated sermon on the Incarnation, which was later inserted in the beginning of the Acts of the Council of Ephesus.

He became the friend and disciple of Saint John Chrysostom. When Archbishop Maximianus (431-434 AD) died, Proclus was immediately enthroned as Archbishop by the permission of the Emperor Theodosius and the bishops gathered at Constantinople. He sent synodical letters to both Patriarchs Cyril of Alexandria and John of Antioch announcing his appointment both of whom approved of it.

Proclus died most probably in 447 AD. He appears to have been wise, moderate, and conciliatory, desirous, while strictly adhering to orthodoxy himself, to win over those who differed from him by persuasion rather than force.

His works consist of 20 sermons, of which 3 are preserved only in a Syriac version, the Greek being lost; 7 letters, along with several addressed to him by other persons; and a few fragments of other letters and sermons.

He is best known for his defense of Mary as Theotokos or Mother of God against those who objected to that title, notably the bishop Nestorius.


Quodvultdeus was the bishop of Carthage when the Vandals came to North Africa. He was known to have been living in Carthage around 407 AD and became a Deacon in 421 AD. He was a student, friend and correspondent with St. Augustine of Hippo who served as Quodvultdeus' spiritual teacher. Augustine also dedicated some of his writings to Quodvultdeus.

North Africa was overrun by the Arian armies of the Vandal barbarians and Carthage was captured by the Genseric, who followed Arianism.  Tradition states that he, along with other Catholic churchmen and the bulk of his priests were loaded onto leaky ships and sent into exile. Meanwhile, an Arian patriarch was installed as bishop. Though they should have sank, the ships landed safetly at Naples around 439 AD and Quodvultus established himself in Italy. Quodvultdeus continued his ministry and fought the Pelagian heresy in Campagna, but never made it back to North Africa. The Arians would not permit a Catholic bishop to be appointed to Carthage for the next 15 years.

He spend the last years of his life in Naples where he died around 450 AD. His name means 'What God wants.'

De Haeresibus Sancti Augustini Epistolae Quatuor


In 451 AD, the same year Nestorius died in the Egyptian desert, Emperor Marcian called for the Council of Chalcedon. It is counted as the Fourth Ecumenical Council. Pope Leo I was opposed to it. His view was that all the bishops should repent of their ways and individually sign his earlier dogmatic letter to Flavian, patriarch of Constantinople in order to avoid a new round of argument and debate. The provinces of the West were being laid waste by Attila's invasions. But before the pope's view became known, the Byzantine Emperor Marcian (396 - 457 A.D) had, by an edict of 17 May 451 AD, convoked the council for 1 September 451 AD. Pope Leo 1 initiated the idea that Jesus had two natures. The Council proclaimed the doctrine that divine and human nature are unalloyed and inseparable in the person of Jesus. The Council proclaimed that the Pope had total and absolute control over the preservation of unity of the Christian Doctrine.

Although the pope was displeased he sent his legates Paschasinus bishop of Lilybaeum, Bishop Lucentius, the priests Boniface and Basil, and Bishop Julian of Cos. The Council was convoked at Nicaea but later transferred to Chalcedon, so as to be close to Constantinople and the Emperor. It began on 8 October 451. According to Leo there were 600 bishops at the Council whereas according to a letter to him there were 500.

Two years earlier, Monophysite bishops had met again in Ephesus at what is called the "Robber Council," where they took the Alexandrian position of Eutyches to a heretical extreme. This "Council" in Ephesus was condemned both by Pope Leo I and by a synod of Rome in 449 AD. Still, the Alexandrian upheaval against the teaching of Christ's two natures required that a general Council meet to decide the issue. The Council of Chalcedon remains the most balanced expression of the Christology of the Universal Church. The relevant texts are as follows:

"[The Council] opposes those who attempt to divide the mystery of the incarnation into two sons. It excludes from the sacred assembly those who dare to declare subject to suffering the divinity of the Only-begotten. It withstands those who imagine a mixture or confusion of Christ's two natures. It rejects those who fancy that the form of a servant assumed by him among us is of a heavenly nature and foreign to ours in essence. It condemns those who invent the myth of two natures of the Lord before the union and of one nature after the union.

Following therefore the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man composed of rational soul and body, the same one in being with the Father as to the divinity and one in being with us as to the humanity, like unto us in all things but sin. The same was begotten from the Father before the ages as to the divinity and in the latter days for us and our salvation was born as to his humanity from Mary the Virgin Mother of God. We confess that one and the same Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, must be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion or change, without division or separation. The distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis. He is not split or divided into two persons, but he is one and the same Only-begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as formerly the prophets and later Jesus Christ himself have taught us about him and as has been handed down to us by the Symbol of the Fathers.

As these points have been determined by us with all possible precision and care, the holy ecumenical Council has ordained that no one may propose, put into writing, devise, hold or teach to others any other faith than this."

Despite its controversy, this Council supported the main points brought forth in the Council of Ephesus twenty years earlier, the Council of Chalcedon refines and specifies the official teaching of the Church, affirming in strong terms the two natures of Christ, God and man, and making their distinction absolutely clear.

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