Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Of what befell the orthodox bishops at Constantinople.
Chapter XXIII.—Of what befell the orthodox bishops at Constantinople.
Constantius, on his return from the West, passed some time at Constantinople. There Acacius urged many accusations against the assembled bishops in presence of the emperor, called them a set of vile characters convoked for the ruin and destruction of the churches, and so fired the imperial wrath. And not least was Constantius moved by what was alleged against Cyrillus, “for,” said Acachius, “the holy robe, which the illustrious Constantine the emperor, in his desire to honour the church of Jerusalem, gave to Macarius, the bishop of that city, to be worn when he performed the rite of divine baptism, all fashioned with golden threads as it was, has been sold by Cyrillus. It has been bought,” he continued, “by a certain stage dancer; dancing about when he was wearing it, he fell down and perished. With a man like this Cyrillus,” he went on, “they set themselves up to judge and decide for the rest of the world.” The influential party at the court made this an occasion for persuading the emperor not to summon the whole synod, for they were alarmed at the concord of the majority, but only ten leading men. Of these were Eustathius of Armenia, Basilius of Galatia, Silvanus of Tarsus, and Eleusius of Cyzicus. 578
p. 88 On their arrival they urged the emperor that Eudoxius should be convicted of blasphemy and lawlessness. Constantius, however, schooled by the opposite party, replied that a decision must first be come to on matters concerning the faith, and that afterwards the case of Eudoxius should be enquired into. Basilius, relying on his former intimacy, ventured boldly to object to the emperor that he was attacking the apostolic decrees; but Constantius took this ill, and told Basilius to hold his tongue, “for to you,” said he, “the disturbance of the churches is due.” When Basilius was silenced, Eustathius intervened and said, “since, sir, you wish a decision to be come to on what concerns the faith, consider the blasphemies rashly uttered against the Only Begotten by Eudoxius,” and as he spoke he produced the exposition of faith wherein, besides many other impieties, were found the following expressions: “Things that are spoken of in unlike terms are unlike in substance:” “There is one God the Father of whom are all things, and one Lord Jesus Christ through whom are all things.” Now the term “of whom” is unlike the term “through whom;” so the Son is unlike God the Father. Constantius ordered this exposition of the faith to be read, and was displeased with the blasphemy which it involved. He therefore asked Eudoxius if he had drawn it up. Eudoxius instantly repudiated the authorship, and said that it was written by Aetius. Now Aetius was he whom Leontius, in dread of the accusations of Flavianus and Diodorus, had formerly degraded from the diaconate. He had also been the supporter of Georgius, the treacherous foe of the Alexandrians, alike in his impious words and his unholy deeds. At the present time he was associated with Eunomius and Eudoxius; for, on the death of Leontius, when Eudoxius had laid violent hands on the episcopal throne of the church at Antioch, he returned from Egypt with Eunomius, and, as he found Eudoxius to be of the same way of thinking as himself, a sybarite in luxury as well as a heretic in faith, he chose Antioch as the most congenial place of abode, and both he and Eunomius were fast fixtures at the couches of Eudoxius. His highest ambition was to be a successful parasite, and he spent his whole time in going to gorge himself at one mans table or anothers. The emperor had been told all this, and now ordered Aetius to be brought before him. On his appearance Constantius showed him the document in question and proceeded to enquire if he was the author of its language. Aetius, totally ignorant of what had taken place, and unaware of the drift of the enquiry, expected that he should win praise by confession, and owned that he was the author of the phrases in question. Then the emperor perceived the greatness of his iniquity, and forthwith condemned him to exile and to be deported to a place in Phrygia. So Aetius reaped disgrace as the fruit of blasphemy, and was cast out of the palace. Eustathius then alleged that Eudoxius too held the same views, for that Aetius had shared his roof and his table, and had drawn up this blasphemous formula in submission to his judgement. In proof of his contention that Eudoxius was concerned in drawing up the document he urged the fact that no one had attributed it to Aetius except Eudoxius himself. To this the emperor enjoined that judges must not decide on conjecture, but are bound to make exact examination of the facts. Eustathius assented, and urged that Eudoxius should give proof of his dissent from the sentiments attributed to him by anathematizing the composition of Aetius. This suggestion the emperor very readily accepted, and gave his orders accordingly; but Eudoxius drew back, and employed many shifts to evade compliance. But when the emperor waxed wroth and threatened to send him off to share the exile of Aetius, on the ground that he was a partner in the blasphemy so punished, he repudiated his own doctrine, though both then and afterwards he persistently maintained it. However, he in his turn protested against the Eustathians that it was their duty to condemn the word “Homoüsion” as unscriptural.
Silvanus on the contrary pointed out that it was their duty to reject and expel from their holy assemblies the phrases “out of the non-existent” and “creature” and “of another substance,” these terms being also unscriptural and found in the writings of neither prophets nor apostles. Constantius decided that this was right, and bade the Arians pronounce the condemnation. At first they persisted in refusing; but in the end, when they saw the emperors wrath, they consented, though much against the grain, to condemn the terms Silvanus had put before them. But all the more earnestly they insisted on their demand for the condemnation of the “Homoüsion.” But then with unanswerable logic Silvanus put both before the Arians and the emperor the truth that if God the Word is not of the non-Existent, He is not a Creature, and is not of another Substance. He is then of one Subp. 89 stance with God Who begat Him, as God of God and Light of Light, and has the same nature as the Begetter. This contention he urged with power and with truth, but not one of his hearers was convinced. The party of Acacius and Eudoxius raised a mighty uproar; the emperor was angered, and threatened expulsion from their churches. Thereupon Eleusius and Silvanus and the rest said that while authority to punish lay with the emperor, it was their province to decide on points of piety or impiety, and “we will not,” they protested, “betray the doctrine of the Fathers.”
Constantius ought to have admired both their wisdom and their courage, and their bold defence of the apostolic decrees, but he exiled them from their churches, and ordered others to be appointed in their place. Thereupon Eudoxius laid violent hands on the Church of Constantinople; and on the expulsion of Eleusius from Cyzicus, Eunomius was appointed in his place.
i.e., Eustathius of Sebasteia, and Basilius of Ancyra (vide note on p. 86). Silvanus of Tarsus was one of the Semiarians of high character. For his kindly entertainment of Cyril of Jerusalem vide page 87. Tillemont places his death in 363.
Eleusius of Cyzicus was also a Semiarian of the better type (cf. Hil. de Syn. p. 133). The evil genius of his life was Macedorius of Constantinople, by whose influence he was made bishop of Cyzicus in 356. Here with equal zeal he destroyed pagan temples and a Novatian church, and this was remembered against him when he attempted to return to his see on the accession of Julian. At Nicomedia in 366 he was moved by the threats of Valens to declare himself an Arian and then in remorse resigned his see, but his flock refused to let him go, Socr. iv. 6.
Next: Synodical Epistle written against Aetius.
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