Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Conference between Liberius, Pope of Rome, and the Emperor Constantius.
Chapter XIII.—Conference between Liberius, Pope of Rome, and the Emperor Constantius 537 .
Constantius.—“We have judged it right, as you are a Christian and the bishop of our city, to send for you in order to admonish you to abjure all connexion with the folly of the impious Athanasius. For when he was separated from the communion of the Church by the synod the whole world approved of the decision.”
Liberius.—“O Emperor, ecclesiastical sentences ought to be enacted with strictest justice: therefore, if it be pleasing to your piety, order the court to be assembled, and if it be seen that Athanasius deserves condemnation, then let sentence be passed upon him according to ecclesiastical forms. For it is not possible for us to condemn a man unheard and untried.”
Constantius.—“The whole world has condemned his impiety; but he, as he has done from the first, laughs at the danger.”
Liberius.—“Those who signed the condemnation were not eye-witnesses of anything that occurred; but were actuated by the desire of glory, and by the fear of disgrace at thy hands.”
The Emperor.—“What do you mean by glory and fear and disgrace?”
Liberius.—“Those who love not the glory of God, but who attach greater value to thy gifts, have condemned a man whom they have neither seen nor judged; this is very contrary to the principles of Christians.”
The Emperor.—“Athanasius was tried in person at the council of Tyre, and all the bishops of the world at that synod condemned him.”
p. 78 Liberius.—“No judgment has ever been passed on him in his presence. Those who there assembled condemned him after he had retired.”
Eusebius the Eunuch 538 foolishly interposed.—“It was demonstrated at the council of Nicæa that he held opinions entirely at variance with the catholic faith.”
Liberius.—“Of all those who sailed to Mareotis, and who were sent for the purpose of drawing up memorials against the accused, five only delivered the sentence against him. Of the five who were thus sent, two are now dead, namely, Theognis and Theodorus. The three others, Maris, Valens, and Ursacius, are still living. Sentence was passed at Sardica against all those who were sent for this purpose to Mareotis. They presented a petition to the council soliciting pardon for having drawn up at Mareotis memorials against Athanasius, consisting of false accusations and depositions of only one party. Their petition is still in our hands. Whose cause are we to espouse, O Emperor? With whom are we to agree and hold communion? With those who first condemned Athanasius, and then solicited pardon for having condemned him, or with those who have condemned these latter?”
Epictetus 539 the Bishop.—“O Emperor, it is not on behalf of the faith, nor in defence of ecclesiastical judgments that Liberius is pleading; but merely in order that he may boast before the Roman senators of having conquered the emperor in argument.”
The Emperor (addressing Liberius).—“What portion do you constitute of the universe, that you alone by yourself take part with an impious man, and are destroying the peace of the empire and of the whole world?”
Liberius.—“My standing alone does not make the truth a whit the weaker. According to the ancient story, there are found but three men resisting a decree.”
Eusebius the Eunuch.—“You make our emperor a Nebuchadnezzar.”
Liberius.—“By no means. But you rashly condemn a man without any trial. What I desire is, in the first place, that a general confession of faith be signed, confirming that drawn up at the council of Nicæa. And secondly, that all our brethren be recalled from exile, and reinstated in their own bishoprics. If, when all this has been carried into execution, it can be shown that the doctrines of all those who now fill the churches with trouble are conformable to the apostolic faith, then we will all assemble at Alexandria to meet the accused, the accusers, and their defender, and after having examined the cause, we will pass judgment upon it.”
Epictetus the Bishop.—“There will not be sufficient post-carriages to convey so many bishops.”
Liberius.—“Ecclesiastical affairs can be transacted without post-carriages. The churches are able to provide means for the conveyance of their respective bishops to the sea coast 540 .”
The Emperor.—“The sentence which has once been passed ought not to be revoked. The decision of the greater number of bishops ought to prevail. You alone retain friendship towards that impious man.”
Liberius.—“O Emperor, it is a thing hitherto unheard of, that a judge should accuse the absent of impiety, as if he were his personal enemy.”
The Emperor.—“All without exception have been injured by him, but none so deeply as I have been. Not content with the death of my eldest brother 541 , he never ceased to excite Constans, of blessed memory, to enmity against me; but I, with much moderation, put up alike with the vehemence of both the instigator and his victim. Not one of the victories which I have gained, not even excepting those over Magnentius and Silvanus, equals the ejection of this vile man from the government of the Church.”
Liberius.—“Do not vindicate your own hatred and revenge, O Emperor, by the instrumentality of bishops; for their hands ought only to be raised for purposes of blessing and of sanctification. If it be consonant with your will, command the bishops to return to their own residences; and if it appear that they are of one mind with him who to-day maintains the true doctrines of the confession of faith signed at Nicæa, then let them come together and see to the peace of the world, in order that an innocent man may not serve as a mark for reproach.”
p. 79 The Emperor.—“One question only requires to be made. I wish you to enter into communion with the churches, and to send you back to Rome. Consent therefore to peace, and sign your assent, and then you shall return to Rome.”
Liberius.—“I have already taken leave of the brethren who are in that city. The decrees of the Church are of greater importance than a residence in Rome.”
The Emperor.—“You have three days to consider whether you will sign the document and return to Rome; if not, you must choose the place of your banishment.”
Liberius.—“Neither three days nor three months can change my sentiments. Send me wherever you please.”
After the lapse of two days the emperor sent for Liberius, and finding his opinions unchanged, he commanded him to be banished to Berœa, a city of Thrace. Upon the departure of Liberius, the emperor sent him five hundred pieces of gold to defray his expenses. Liberius said to the messenger who brought them, “Go, and give them back to the emperor; he has need of them to pay his troops.” The empress 542 also sent him a sum of the same amount; he said, “Take it to the emperor, for he may want it to pay his troops; but if not, let it be given to Auxentius and Epictetus, for they stand in need of it.” Eusebius the eunuch brought him other sums of money, and he thus addressed him: “You have turned all the churches of the world into a desert, and do you bring alms to me, as to a criminal? Begone, and become first a Christian 543 .” He was sent into exile three days afterwards, without having accepted anything that was offered him.
The interview took place at Milan, after the Eunuch Eusebius, Chamberlain of Constantius, had in vain tried to win over the bishop at Rome, and had exasperated him by making an improper offering at the shrine of St. Peter. (Hist. Ar. §86.)78:538
I adopt the suggestion of Valesius, that ἀλόγως refers not to the condemnation, but to the foolish remark of the imperial chamberlain. Another expedient for clearing Eusebius of the absurdity of saying that Athanasius was condemned at Nicæa, where he triumphed, has been to read Tyre for Nicæa.78:539
Bishop of Centumcellæ (Civita Vecchia); “a bold young fellow, ready for any mischief.” A protégé of the Cappadocian Georgius, he was an Arian of the worst type, and had effected the substitution of Felix for Liberius in the Roman see by irregular and scandalous means. (Ath. Hist. Ar. §75.)78:540
A passage of Ammianus Marcellinus (xxi. 16) on the “cursus publicus” has been made famous by Gibbon. “The Christian religion, which in itself is plain and simple, Constantius confounded by the dotage of superstition. Instead of reconciling the parties by the weight of his authority, he cherished and propagated, by verbal disputes, the differences which his vain curiosity had excited. The highways were covered with troops of bishops galloping from every side to the assemblies which they call synods; and while they laboured to reduce the whole sect to their own particular opinions, the public establishment of the posts was almost ruined by their hasty and repeated journeys.” Gibbon, chap. xx.78:541
Constantine II. had befriended Athanasius, but the patriarch was neither directly nor indirectly responsible for his attack on Constans and his death.79:542
Eusebia. Constantius II. was thrice married; (i) a.d. 336 (Eus. Vit. Const. iv. 49), to his cousin Constantia, sister of Julian (vid. Pedigree in proleg.); (ii) a.d. 352, to Aurelia Eusebia, an Arian “of exceptional beauty of body and mind” (Amm. Marc. xxi. 6), and (iii) a.d. 360 or 361, to Faustina.79:543
Liberius does not reckon the Arian eunuch as a Christian.
Next: Concerning the Banishment and Return of the Holy Liberius.
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