OCCURRENCES UP TO THE DEATH OF CONSTANTINE.
OCCURRENCES UP TO THE DEATH OF CONSTANTINE.
23. St. Athanasius is made Bishop of Alexandria; Eusebius is recalled; St. Eustasius exiled, and Arius again taken into favour. 24. Council of Tyre. 25. St. Athanasius accused and exiled. 26. Arius banished from Alexandria. 27. His Perjury and horrible Death. 28. Constantine's Baptism and Death; Division of the Empire.
St. Athanasius is made Bishop of Alexandria; Eusebius is recalled; St. Eustasius exiled, and Arius again taken into favour.
23. In the following year, 326, St. Alexander, Patriarch of Alexandria, died, and St. Athanasius was elected his successor, with the unanimous consent of the bishops of Egypt and the people ; but when he heard of it he fled out of the way, but was discovered and obliged to yield to the wishes of the people and clergy. He was, therefore, placed on the episcopal throne of Alexandria (1), to the great joy of his fellow-citizens; but the Arians were highly discontented, and disseminated many calumnious reports regarding his elevation (2). About the same time Eusebius and Theognis pretended to be sorry for their errors, and having sent in writing a feigned retraction of their opinions to the principal bishops of the East, they were recalled by Constantino, and re-established in their sees. This conversion was only feigned, and they left no stone unturned to promote the interests of Arius. Among the rest, Eusebius succeeded, in a caballing council, at Antioch (3), in getting St. Eustatius, Arius s greatest opponent, deposed from that see, on a charge of adultery, got up against him by an infamous woman, the only witness in the case ; but the calumny was soon after discovered, for the woman, falling sick, contradicted all she had previously charged him with (4). He, however, was banished and deposed, and Paulinus of Tyre, first, and, next, Eularius were intruded into his see. Eularius dying soon after his intrusion, Eusebius of Ceserea, who previously had intruded himself into that church, was elected to succeed him ; but he, having ulterior objects now in view, refused to go to Antioch, so Euphronius, a native of Ceserea, was first appointed, and after him Flacillus, both Arians ; but many of the Catholics of Antioch would never hold communion with those intruded bishops (5). Eusebius of Nicomedia next intrigued successfully to establish Arius in the good graces of Constantine, and obtain permission for him to return to Alexandria. This he accomplished by means of an Arian priest, who was a great friend of Constantia, the Emperor's sister ; and he induced her, when she was on the point of death, to request this favour from the Emperor. She did so, and Constantine said that, if Arius subscribed the decrees of the Council of Nice, he would pardon him. In fact, Arius was recalled, and came to Constantinople, and presented to the Emperor a profession of faith, in which he professed to believe, according to the Scriptures, that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, produced before all ages that he was the Word by which all things were made (6). Constantine, believing that Arius had in reality now embraced the decisions of the Council, was satisfied with this profession ; but he never adverted to the fact, that in this document the word " consubstantial" was omitted, and that the introduction of these words, "according to the Scriptures," was only a pretext of Arius to distort to his own meaning the clearest expression of the Scriptures, proving the divinity of the Son of God. He would not receive him, nevertheless, to his communion on his own authority, but sent him to Tyre, where a council was sitting, of which we shall treat presently, to undergo the scrutiny of the bishops ; he wrote to the assembled prelates to examine Arius s profession of faith, and to see whether his retraction was sincere. The partisans of Eusebius were in great force in the Council of Tyre, so Arius, on his arrival, was immediately again received into communion (7).
(1) Fleury, /. 11, n. 29.
(3) Orsi, n. 84; Nat. Alex. a. 4, t. 4;
(2) Orsi, n. 80. Fleury, ibid, n. 11.
(4) Theodoret, I. 1, t. 22.
(5) Orsi, t. 5, 1. 12, n. 87, & 90.
(6) Ibid. Nat. Alex. & Fleury.
(7) Socrat. /. 1, c. 33; Sozom. Rufin,
Council of Tyre.
24. We have now to speak of the cabal of Tyre, in which the Eusebians contrived to banish St. Athanasius from the see of Alexandria. Before, however, giving the history of this unjust expulsion, we should remark that previously the Arians had plotted the destruction of the holy bishop, and charged him before the Emperor with many crimes (8). They accused him of having violated a virgin of having killed Arsenius, the Bishop of Ipsele, in the Thebaid of casting down an altar, and breaking a consecrated chalice; and they now renewed the same charges in the Council of Tyre (9), Constantino, at the request of his mother, St. Helen, had built the great Church of the Resurrection, in Jerusalem, and had invited a great number of bishops to consecrate it with all solemnity; it was on this occasion that Eusebius of JSTicomedia suggested to him that it would be well to collect all the bishops, before the consecration, into a council, to establish a general peace. The Emperor was most anxious for peace above all things ; so he at once agreed, and selected Tyre as the most convenient place for the bishop* to meet on their way to Jerusalem. Eusebius, who had planned the scheme, now got together all the bishops of his party, so that there were sixty bishops in all ; but many of these were Catholics, and this number was increased soon after by the arrival of St. Athanasius, accompanied by Paphuntius, Potamon, and several other Egyptian bishops. St. Athanasius, seeing the storm he had to encounter, refused to come at first, but was constrained by Constantino, who threatened him with banishment in case of refusal (10). Eusebius next contrived that the Count Flavius should be present, to preserve order, as he said, and keep down any disturbance ; but, in reality, to crush St. Athanasius and his friends. Flavius, accordingly, came, accompanied by a large body of troops, ready to seize on any one who opposed Eusebius s party (11).
(8) Orsi, /. 12, n. 92.
(11) O rs i, I. 12, n. 96
St. Athanasius accused and exiled.
25. The impious synod was now opened, and St. Athanasius, who, in right of his dignity, should preside, was obliged to stand as a criminal to be tried for crimes he never was guilty of. When St. Potamon saw him in this position he was highly indignant with Eusebius of Cesarea, who was seated among the judges (12). " Tell me, Eusebius," said he, " how did it happen that, when we were both prisoners, in the days of persecution for the faith, my right eye was plucked out, but you left the prison safe and sound, without any mark of constancy ; how could that have happened, unless you yielded to the will of the tyrant ?" Eusebius, enraged at the charge, instead of making any defence, got up, and left the council, and the synod was dissolved for that day (13). St. Athanasius protested that he did not wish to submit himself to the judgment of his enemies, but in vain. He was first accused by two bishops of Meletius s party ; and the principal charges they brought against him were the violation of the virgin, the murder of the bishop, and the desecration of the altar and chalice. This last charge they could not bring any proof of, so they confined themselves to the two former ; and, to prove the crime of violation (14), they introduced into the synod a prostitute, who declared that St. Athanasius had robbed her of her honour. The Saint, however, knowing the plot beforehand, made one of his priests, of the name of Timothy, stand forward ; and he said to the woman : " Do you mean to charge me with having violated you ?" " Yes," said the unfortunate wretch, thinking he was St. Athanasius, " you have violated me you have robbed me of my virginity, which I dedicated to God." Thus this first calumny was most triumphantly refuted, and the other charge was equally proved to be unfounded. Among the other proofs they adduced of the murder of Arsenius, they exhibited a hand which was cut off from his dead body, they said, by St. Athanasius. But the fact was thus (15) : When the Saint was first accused of the crime, Arsenius lent himself to the Arian party, and concealed himself, that his death might be proved. But he soon repented of such wickedness, and, to clear St. Athanasius, he came to Tyre, and confronted the Saint s accusers in the council; for while the accusers were making the charge, and showing the dead hand as a proof, Athanasius asked them, did they know Arsenius ? They answered, that they did. He then called forth the man they said was dead, and told him to hold up his head, that all might recognize him. But even this would not stop their mouths, for they then said, that he did not kill him, but cut off his hand only ; but Athanasius opened Arsenius s mantle, and showed that both his hands were perfect. Beaten out of this last accusation, they then said that it was all accomplished by magic, and that the Saint was a magician. Finally, they said, that St. Athanasius (16) forced persons to hold communion with him, by imprisoning some, flogging and tormenting others, and that he even deposed and flogged some bishops ; and the winding up of the matter was, that he was condemned and deposed. When St. Athanasius saw that he was so unjustly deposed, he appealed to the Emperor in Constantinople, and acquainted him with all he suffered in the Council of Tyre ; and Constantino wrote to the bishops who were yet remaining in Jerusalem, reproving them for tumultuously smothering the truth, and ordering them to come immediately to Constantinople, and account for their conduct (17). The Eusebians obeyed the imperial order, and, saying nothing more about the murder of Arsenius, or the broken chalice, they invented a new charge against Athanasius that he threatened to prevent the usual supply of grain from being sent from Alexandria to Constantinople. This was just the charge calculated to ruin him with the Emperor, who was so enraged, that he even threatened to put him to death ; and, though the Saint refuted the accusation, he was condemned to banishment (18).
(13) Orsi, /. 12, n. 97.
(14) Ibid, n. 93. Apol. contra Ar. n. 65.
(15) Orsi, /. 12, n. 94, ex St. A than.
(16) Nat. Alex. t. 8, c. 3; Ilermant,
(17) Orsi, cit. t. 1, c. 92, &Fleury.
Arius banished from Alexandria
26. In the year 336 there was another council held in Constantinople, and the bishop of that city, St. Alexander, seeing that the Eusebians would have it all their own way, did everything in his power to prevent it, but could not succeed. The Eusebians then tried Marcellus of Ancira, the defender of St. Athanasius in the Council of Tyre, for some heresies alleged to have been written by him in a book, published in opposition to Asterius the Sophist, who composed a treatise filled with Arian errors. They, therefore, excommunicated and deposed Marcellus, as he was not one of their party, and elected, in his place, Basil, a partisan of Arius. This was only a secondary consideration, however. The principal reason the Arians had in assembling this council was to re-establish Arius in his place again, and confirm his doctrine. After Arius was received in Jerusalem to the communion of the bishops, he returned to Alexandria, hoping, in the absence of St. Athanasius, banished by Constantine, to be there received by the Catholics. In this he was disappointed they would have nothing to do with him ; but, as he had many partisans in the city, his residence there excited some commotion. When the Emperor was informed of this he ordered him to come to Constantinople. It is said that the Eusebians induced the Emperor to give this order, hoping to have Arius received into the communion of the Church, in the imperial city ; but in this they were most strenuously opposed by St. Alexander, and they, in consequence, threatened him, that, unless he received Arius into his communion on a certain day, that they would have himself deposed. St. James, Bishop of Nisibis, then in Constantinople, said that prayers and penance alone could remedy these evils, and St. Alexander, taking his advice, gave up both preaching and disputing, and shut himself up alone in the Church of Peace, and remained there many nights, weeping and praying (19).
(19) Fleury, Orsi, Socr. Sozyman, St. Epiphan. loc. cit.
His Perjury and horrible Death.
27. The Eusebians persuaded the Emperor that Arius held the doctrine of the Church, and it was, therefore, regulated that he should, the next Sunday, be received to the communion. The Saturday previous, however, Constantine, that he might be quite certain of the faith of Arius, ordered him to be called into his presence, asked him did he profess the faith of Nice, and insisted that he should give him a written profession of faith, and swear to it. Arius gave him the written profession, but a fraudulent one, and swore that he neither then or at any other time believed differently ; some say that he had another profession of faith under his arm, and that it was to that one he intended to swear. However, the affair was arranged ; it is certain that the Emperor, trusting to his oath, told St. Alexander that it was a matter of duty to assist a man who wished for nothing but his salvation. St. Alexander endeavoured to undeceive him, but finding he only irritated him more and more, held his tongue, and retired ; he soon after met Eusebius of Nicomedia, who said to him, if you don t wish to receive Arius to-morrow I will myself bring him along with me to the church. St. Alexander, grieved to the heart, went to the church accompanied by only two persons, and prostrating himself on the floor, with tears in his eyes, prayed to the Lord : my God, either take me out of the world, or take Arius, that he may not ruin your Church. Thus St. Alexander prayed, and on the same day, Saturday, at three o clock, the Eusebians were triumphantly conducting Arius through the city, and he went along, boasting of his re-establish ment, but when he came to the great square the vengeance of God overtook him ; he got a terrible spasm in the bowels, and was obliged to seek a place of retirement ; a private place near the square was pointed out to him ; he went in and left a servant at the door ; he immediately burst open like Judas, his intestines, his spleen, and his liver all fell out, and thus his guilty soul took her flight to her Creator, deprived of the communion of the Church. When he delayed too long, his friends came to the door, and on opening it, they found him stretched on the floor in a pool of blood in that horrible state. This event took place in the year 336 (20).
(20) Baron - s c. Sozymen, Libcllus, Marcel. & Fausti, p. 19; St. Epiplian.
28. In the following year, 337, Constantine died. He was then 64 years of age. He fell sick, and took baths in Constantinople at first, but receiving no benefit from them, he tried the baths of Helenopolis. He daily got worse, so went to Nicomedia, and finding himself near death, he was baptized in the Church of St. Lucian. Authors vary regarding the time and place of Constantino's baptism. Eusebius says that he was baptized in Nicomedia, a few hours before his death, but other writers assert that he was baptized in Rome by St. Sylvester, thirteen years before, in the year 324. Cardinal Baronius holds this opinion, and quotes many authorities in favour of it, and Schelestratus brings forward many Greek and Latin authorities to prove the same. The generality of authors, however, follow Eusebius, Socrates, Sozymen, Theodoret, and St. Jerome, Fleury, and Orsi, and especially Noel Alexander, who answers the arguments of Baronius, and cites for his own opinion St. Ambrose, St. Isidore, Papebrock and the fathers of St. Maur. These last say that Constantino, being near his end, in Nicomedia, wished to receive from the bishops, in the church of St. Lucian, the imposition of hands a ceremony then in use previous to baptism, and practised with every catechumen. He was then carried to a castle, called Aquirion, a little distant from Nico- media, and, having summoned the bishops, he received baptism with the greatest devotion. " Now," said he, " I feel myself truly happy." His officers then came to him, and, with tears in their eyes, expressed the wish they had for his restoration to health and long life ; but he said, " I have now received the true life, and I have no other wish but to go and enjoy God." St. Jerome, in his Chronicle, says that he lapsed into Arian errors, but his festival is commemorated in the Greek Menalogy, according to Noel Alexander, on the 21st of May, and the same author wrote a dissertation to prove that he died a good Catholic, and all the ancients, he says, agree in that opinion with St. Athanasius, St. Hilary, St. Epiphanius, and St. Ambrose ; and we have, likewise, the authority of the Council of Rimini, in the synodal epistle written to the Emperor Constantius, and quoted by Socrates, Theodoret, Sozymen, and St. Athanasius. Cardinal Orsi remarks that the baptism of Constantine, by Eusebius, ought not to render his faith suspected, and that this is no proof of a leaning to Arianism, as St. Jerome suspects, since we see how strenuously he defended the Council and doctrine of Nice, and especially since he recalled St. Athanasius from exile immediately after his baptism, notwithstanding the opposition of Eusebius of Nicomedia. Sozymen says that the Emperor left this order in his will, and that Constantine the Younger, when he sent back St. Athanasius to his see, declared that, in doing so, he was fulfilling the will of his father ; and St. Athanasius attests that, at the same time, all the other Catholic bishops were reinstated in their sees (21).
(21) Socrates; Baron, An. 336; Auctores, cit. ; Euseb. Vita Constant.; Schelestr. in Antiquit. &c.
Constantine's Baptism and Death; Division of the Empire.
29. Constantine died on the feast of Pentecost, the 23rd of May, 337, and divided the empire among his children and nephews. To Constantius the Elder he left all that was possessed by his father, Constans, and Gaul, Spain, and Britain besides ; to Constantius the Second, Asia, Assyria, and Egypt ; and to Constantius the Youngest, Africa, Italy, and Illyria ; and to his nephews, Dalmatius and Hannibalianus, some provinces of less note. It was the will of the Almighty, however, that Constantino the Younger and Constans died, so the whole empire fell into the sway of Constantius, a great misfortune for the Church, for he was a violent persecutor, and Constantius and Constans were its friends (22).
THE HISTORY OF HERESIES, AND THEIR REFUTATION.ST. ALPHONSUS M. LIGUORI