Lecture for ChD 603 Church Development Part III
Lecture for ChD 603 Church Development Part III
"A Survey of the Lives and Major Events of the Fourth Century AD in the Development of the Early Orthodox Catholic Church"
by Akinnugba Macfonse Osmond, OSM
Clement of Alexandria
Clement, a indigenous of Athens, got converted to Christianity by Pantaenus, founder of the Catechetical School at Alexandria (then the intellectual capital of the Mediterranean world), and succeeded his teacher as head of the School about 180. He labored effectively as an apologist for the faith and catechist of the faithful for over 20 years. He considered the science and philosophy of the Greeks as being, like the Torah of the Hebrews, a preparation for the Gospel, and the curriculum of his School undertook to give his students both a knowledge the Gospel of Christ and a sound liberal education. His speculative theology, his scholarly defense of the faith and his willingness to meet non-Christian scholars on their own grounds, helped to establish the good reputation of Christianity in the world of learning and prepare the way for his pupil, Origen, the most eminent theologian of Greek Christianity. Clement is not on the present Roman calendar, but is on the Eastern calendar and many modern revisions of the Anglican calendar. His influence has been considerable.
Emperor Constantine and the Edict of Milan;(313AD)
Caesar Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (27 February c. 272– 22 May 337), known as Constantine I, Constantine the Great, was Roman emperor from 306, and the sole holder of that office from 324 until his death in 337. Best known for being the first Christian Roman emperor, Constantine reversed the persecutions of his predecessor, Diocletian, and issued (with his co-emperor Licinius) the Edict of Milan in 313, which declared religious toleration throughout the empire. The two Augusti were in Milan to celebrate the wedding of Constantine's sister with Licinius. In addition, the Edict of Milan ordered the restitution of property confiscated from Christians.
The Byzantine liturgical calendar, observed by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches of Byzantine rite, lists both Constantine and his mother Helena as saints. Although he is not included in the Latin Church's list of saints, which does recognize several other Constantines as saints, he is revered under the title "The Great" for his contributions to Christianity.
Constantine also transformed the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium into a new imperial residence, Constantinople, which would remain the capital of the Byzantine Empire for over one thousand years.
Aksumites in Ethopia, conversion (circa 330 AD)
The Aksumite Empire or Axumite Empire (sometimes called the Kingdom of Aksum or Axum), was a major trading nation in northeastern Africa, growing from the proto-Aksumite period ca. 4th century BC to achieve reputation by the 1st century AD. Its ancient capital is found in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name "Ethiopia" as early as the 4th century. It is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant and the purported home of the Queen of Sheba. Aksum was also the first major empire to convert to Christianity.
In about 324 C.E., the King Ezana II was converted by his slave-teacher Frumentius, the founder of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Frumentius taught the emperor while he was young, and at some point staged the conversion of the empire. It is known that the Axumites converted to Christianity because in their coins they replaced the disc and crescent with the cross. Frumentius was in contact with the Church in Alexandria and was appointed Bishop of Ethiopia around 330 C.E. Alexandria never reigned Aksum in tightly, rather allowing its own form of Christianity form, however, the church did retain a minor influence.
Under Emperor Ezana, Axum adopted Christianity in place of its former polytheistic and Judaic religions around 325. This gave rise to the present day Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (only granted autonomy from the Coptic Church in 1959), and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church (granted autonomy from the Ethiopian Orthodox church in 1993). During the Schism within Orthodoxy, the Ethiopian Church followed the Coptic Church of Alexandria into Monophysitism after the Council of Chalcedon (451), and its scriptures and liturgy are still in Ge'ez.
Patriarch Athanasius of Alexandria (circa 326 AD)
Saint Athanasius, theologian, ecclesiastical statesman, and Egyptian national leader, was the chief defender of Christian orthodoxy in the 4th-century battle against Arianism, the heresy that the Son of God was a creature of like, but not of the same, substance as God the Father. Athanasius attended the Council of Nicaea (325) and shortly thereafter became bishop of Alexandria (328). For the rest of his life he was engaged in theological and political struggles with the Emperor and with Arian churchmen, being banished from Alexandria several times. He wrote many important works, including his major theological treatises, The Life of St. Antony and Four Orations against the Arians, and a number of letters on theological, pastoral, and administrative topics.
Athanasius is a Doctor of the Church in the Roman Catholic Church, and he is counted as one of the four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church. Athanasius' feast day is 2 May in Western Christianity, 15 May in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and 18 January in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
The saint was originally buried in Alexandria. His holy body was later transferred to Italy. Pope Shenouda III restored the relics of St. Athanasius to Egypt on 15 May 1973, after his historical visit to the Vatican and meeting with Pope Paul VI. The relics of St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria are currently preserved under the new St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Deir El-Anba Rowais, Abbassiya, Cairo, Egypt.
Ulfilas, and the Goths (341 AD)
Ulfilas, or Gothic Wulfila (also Ulphilas. Orphila) (ca. 310 – 383;), bishop, missionary, and Bible translator, was a Goth or half-Goth who had spent time inside the Roman Empire at the peak of the Arian controversy. Ulfilas was ordained a bishop by Eusebius of Nicomedia and returned to his people to work as a missionary. In 348, to escape religious persecution by a Gothic chief, probably Athanaric he obtained permission from Constantius II to migrate with his flock of converts to Moesia and settle near Nicopolis ad Istrum, in what is now northern Bulgaria. There, Ulfilas translated the Bible from Greek into the Gothic language. For this he devised the Gothic alphabet. Fragments of his translation have survived, including the Codex Argenteus, in the University Library of Uppsala in Sweden. A parchment page of this Bible was found in 1971 in the Speyer Cathedral.
Ulfilas converted many among the Goths, preaching an Arian Christianity, which, when they reached the western Mediterranean, set them apart from their Catholic neighbors and subjects. Ulfilas converted many among the Goths who, when they conquered Rome as "barabarians," were in fact Arian Christians. Though largely unheralded by history due to his "heretical" views, he ranks among the greatest Christian missionaries of all time. Emperor Constantius II reportedly called him "the Moses of his day."
Constantius and the Synod of Rimini (359)
In 358, the Roman Emperor Constantius II requested two councils, one of the western bishops at Ariminum and one of the eastern bishops (planned for Nicomedia but actually held at Seleucia) to resolve the Arian controversy over the nature of the divinity of Jesus Christ, which divided the 4th-century church.
In July 359, the western council (between 300 t0 400 bishops) met. Ursacius of Singidunum and Valens of Mursa soon proposed a new creed, drafted at the Council of Sirmium of 359 but not presented there, holding that the Son was like the Father "according to the scriptures," and avoiding the controversial terms "same substance" and "similar substance." Others favored the creed of Nicaea.
The opponents of Sirmium wrote a letter to the emperor Constantius, praising Nicaea and condemning any reconsideration of it, before many of them left the council. The supporters of Sirmium then issued the new creed and sent it through Italy.
The council was considered a defeat for trinitarianism, and Saint Jerome wrote: "The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian."
Pope Liberius of Rome rejected the new creed, prompting Phaebadius of Agen and Servatus of Tongeren to withdraw their support from the homoian. The supporters of Sirmium deposed Liberius and reappointed Felix of Rome in his place.
Julian the Apostate
Flavius Claudius Julianus, known also as Julian, Julian the Apostate or Julian the Philosopher (331/332 - 26 June 363), was Roman Emperor (Caesar, November 355 to February 360; Augustus, February 360 to June 363), last of the Constantinian dynasty. Julian was a man of "unusually complex character": he was "the military commander, the theosophist, the social reformer, and the man of letters".
Julian was the last non-Christian ruler of the Roman Empire and it was his desire to bring the empire back to its ancient Roman values in order to save it from "dissolution". He purged the top-heavy state bureaucracy and attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices at the cost of Christianity. His rejection of Christianity in favour of Neo-Platonic paganism caused him to be called Julian the Apostate by the church, as Edward Gibbon wrote:
In 363, after a reign of only 19 months as absolute ruler of the Roman Empire, Julian died in Persia during a campaign against the Sassanid Empire.
Catholicos Nerses of Armenia (circa 365)
St. Nerses the Great (Catholicos Nerses I, 353-73) calls the first Armenian Church Council at Ashtishat. Bishop and martyr, the father of St. Isaac the Great (Saint Sahak I). A native of Armenia, he studied in Cappadocia and wed a princess who gave birth to Isaac.
His patriarchate marks a new era in Armenian history. Till then the Church had been more or less identified with the royal family and the nobles; Nerses brought it into closer connection with the people. At the Council of Ashtishat he promulgated numerous laws on marriage, fast days, and Divine worship. He built schools, monasteries and hospitals, and sent monks throughout the land to preach the Gospel.
Narses held a synod at Ashtishat that among other things forbade people to marry their first cousin and forbade multilation and other extreme actions in mourning.
Some of these reforms drew upon him the king's displeasure, and he was exiled, supposedly to Edessa. It was probably at some point during the later part of Arshak's reign that Nerses went to Constantinople to ensure the Emperor's support of Armenia against the Persians. According to P'awstos Buzandac'i's account the Valens became outraged at Narses condemning his following the teachings of Arius and sent Narses into exile. While Narses was in exile Xad was the leader of the church in Armenia.
Upon the accession of pro-Arian King Pap (369) he returned to his see. Pap proved a dissolute and unworthy ruler and Nerses forbade him entrance to the church. Under the pretence of seeking a reconciliation, Nerses was invited to a royal banquet at Khakh, on the Euphrates River, and was assassinated by poison.
Abba Pachomius (circa 317) in Egypt
Born in Thebes (present day Luxor) to pagan parents, he was forced into the military and subsequently captured. He was so touched by the charity and love of local Christians who provided assistance to him while in captivity that he embraced the faith and was baptized in 314. He entered the desert under the guidance of Abba Palamon in 317, imitating the hermitic life of Abba Antony.
A few years later, he heard a divine voice calling him: “Pachomius, Pachomius, struggle, dwell in this place and build a monastery, for many will come to you to become monks with you, and they will profit their souls.” Abba Pachomius heard the calling and established the first cenobitic (i.e., “community”) monastery at Tabennesi. He is thus credited as the founder of community monasticism, which is prevalent today.
The number of these cenobitic (or “Pachomian”) communities grew at a miraculous rate. By his departure, there were nine monasteries for men and two for women. To deal with the administration of these communities, Abba Pachomius created the Koinonia. This word, which is Greek for “fellowship,” simply describes the federation of these monasteries under a single leader and spiritual order.
In addition to establishing community monasticism and the Koinonia, Abba Pachomius was the first to establish a cohesive body of rules for monks. One biographer of the desert fathers tells us that an angel appeared to Abba Pachomius as he was in his cave and told him to create these Pachomian Rules from what was written on a bronze tablet. The only complete translation of these Rules comes to us from a Latin translation that was completed by Abba Jerome in the beginning of the fifth century.
Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria and Life of Anthony (365)
Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 293 - 2 May 373), also given the titles Athanasius the Great, Pope Athanasius I of Alexandria, and Athanasius the Apostolic, was a Christian theologian, bishop of Alexandria, Church Father, and a noted Egyptian leader of the fourth century. He is best remembered for his role in the conflict with Arius and Arianism. At the First Council of Nicaea, Athanasius argued against Arius and his doctrine that Christ is of a distinct substance from the Father.
Athanasius is a Doctor of the Church in the Roman Catholic Church, and he is counted as one of the four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church. Athanasius' feast day is 2 May in Western Christianity, 15 May in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and 18 January in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Abba Antony the Great, is widely regarded as the founder of monasticism. He was raised in a Christian family in a village along the Nile River. Abba Antony’s parents died when he was approximately 18 or 20 years old, leaving him a considerable fortune. One day, he heard a passage from the Gospel of Saint Matthew in the church: “If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matt. 19:21.) Immediately, Anthony gave away all of his earthly possessions and fled to the desert. There, he practiced a rigorous life, both spiritually and physically. Indeed, the word “asceticism” is derived from the Greek word ascēsis, which means “exercise regimen.” The word was applied to Abba Antony’s life, which included manual labor, vigils, and incessant prayer.
We know of Abba Antony and his life through Saint Athanasius the Apostolic (c. 296-373), the twentieth Patriarch of Alexandria, who authored a work entitled Life of Antony. This work is based on both firsthand encounters with Abba Antony while Saint Athanasius fled Roman persecution in the deserts of Egypt and recollections of Abba Antony’s disciples. It is replete with stories of miracles, wisdom, and a lifelong struggle against Satan and his demons. The Life of Antony was more than merely the story of a holy monk in the desert, however. In his preface to Life of Antony, Saint Athanasius tells its readers, “Along with marveling at the man, you will want to imitate his purpose, for Antony’s way of life provides monks with a sufficient picture for ascetic practice.” In a short time, the story of Abba Antony’s blessed life spread throughout the known world in several languages. It became the paradigm not only of asceticism, but also of proper Christian living.
Basil of Caesarea (circa 368)
Basil of Caesarea, also called Saint Basil the Great, (330  - January 1, 379) was the bishop of Caesarea Mazaca in Cappadocia, Asia Minor (now Turkey). He was an influential 4th century Christian theologian and monastic. Theologically, Basil was a supporter of the Nicene faction of the church, in opposition to Arianism on one side and the followers of Apollinaris of Laodicea on the other. His ability to balance his theological convictions with his political connections made Basil a powerful advocate for the Nicene position.
In addition to his work as a theologian, Basil was known for his care of the poor and underprivileged. Basil established guidelines for monastic life which focus on community life, liturgical prayer, and manual labor. Together with Pachomius he is remembered as a father of communal monasticism in Eastern Christianity. He is considered a saint by the traditions of both Eastern and Western Christianity.
Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa are collectively referred to as the Cappadocian Fathers. The Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches have given him, together with Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom, the title of Great Hierarch, while the Roman Catholic Church has named him a Doctor of the Church. He is also referred to as "the revealer of heavenly mysteries"
Evagrius Ponticus (circa 390) and Writings on the Desert Fathers
Evagrius Ponticus, or Evagrius the Solitary (345-399 A.D.) was a Christian monk and ascetic. One of the rising stars in the late fourth century church, he was well-known as a keen thinker, a polished speaker, and a gifted writer. Throughout his ministry, he was a trusted friend to several influential contemporary church leaders, including Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Nectarius of Constantinople, Macarius of Egypt, John Cassian, and Theophilus of Alexandria.
One of the most influential and controversial monastic theologians of the fourth century, Evagrius of Pontus, has been alternately hailed as a saint and condemned as a heretic throughout the centuries since his death. The influence of his writings is incalculable: in the West his teachings were principally transmitted by his disciple John Cassian; while in the East his texts have always been widely read, albeit often under the pseudonyms of less-suspicious authors.
Most Egyptian monks of that time were illiterate. Evagrius, a highly-educated classical scholar, is believed to be one of the first people to begin recording and systematizing the erstwhile oral teachings of the monastic authorities known as the Desert Fathers. Eventually, he also became regarded as a Desert Father, and several of his apothegms appear in the 'Vitae Patrum' (a collection of sayings from early Christian monks).
The most prominent feature of his research was a system of categorizing various forms of temptation. He developed a comprehensive list in 375 AD of eight evil thoughts (λογισμοι), or eight terrible temptations, from which all sinful behavior springs. This list was intended to serve a diagnostic purpose: to help readers identify the process of temptation, their own strengths and weaknesses, and the remedies available for overcoming temptation.
The eight patterns of evil thought are gluttony, fornication, avarice, sorrow, acedia, anger, vainglory, and pride. While he did not create the list from scratch, he certainly refined it.
Like the other Cappadocian fathers Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil of Caesarea, Evagrius was an avid student of Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-250 A.D.), and he further developed certain esoteric speculations regarding the pre-existence of human souls, the final state of believers, and certain teachings about the natures of God and Christ. These speculative teachings were declared heretical by the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 A.D. When subsequent ecumenical councils sought to clarify these anathemas, Origen (along with Evagrius and a few others) were condemned as well.
Despite the accusations of heresy, Evagrius exerted a tremendous influence on the church through his practical writings. Though most of his writings were destroyed, many survived simply because they were so helpful. Some of his books were attributed to other writers, such as Basil, Gregory Nazianzus, and Saint Nilus. One of his key disciples, John Cassian, established a few monasteries in southern France and effectively adapted key Evagrian works for his Western audiences.
Other significant figures influenced by Evagrius include: John Climacus, Maximus the Confessor, Benedict (the founder of the Order of St. Benedict), and Symeon the New Theologian.
St. Basil of Caesarea and On the Holy Spirit; (circa 375AD)
Basil then had to face the growing spread of Arianism. This belief system, which denied that Christ was consubstantial with the Father, was quickly gaining adherents and was seen by many, particularly those in Alexandria most familiar with it, as posing a threat to the unity of the church. Basil entered into connections with the West, and with the help of Athanasius, he tried to overcome its distrustful attitude toward the Homoiousians. The difficulties had been enhanced by bringing in the question as to the essence of the Holy Spirit. Although Basil advocated objectively the consubstantiality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son, he belonged to those, who, faithful to Eastern tradition, would not allow the predicate homoousios to the former; for this he was reproached as early as 371 by the Orthodox zealots among the monks, and Athanasius defended him. He maintained a relationship with Eustathius despite dogmatic differences. On the other hand, Basil was grievously offended by the extreme adherents of Homoousianism, who seemed to him to be reviving the Sabellian heresy.
Gregory of Nazianzius, Patriarch of Constanople (circa 379AD)
Gregory of Nazianzus (330 - January 25 389 or 390) (also known as Gregory the Theologian or Gregory Nazianzen) was a 4th-century Archbishop of Constantinople. He is widely considered the most accomplished rhetorical stylist of the patristic age. As a classically trained speaker and philosopher he infused Hellenism into the early church, establishing the paradigm of Byzantine theologians and church officials.
Gregory made a significant impact on the shape of Trinitarian theology among both Greek- 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 the two brothers, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, he is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers.
Gregory is a saint in both Eastern and Western Christianity. In the Roman Catholic Church he is numbered among the Doctors of the Church; in Eastern Orthodoxy and the Eastern Catholic Churches he is revered as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, along with Basil the Great and John Chrysostom.
St. Gregory of Nyssa and Against Eunomius
Gregory was raised in a very pious (and large) Christian family of ten children; his grandmother Macrina the Elder, his mother Emily, his father Basil the Elder, his sisters Macrina the Younger and Theosebia, and his brothers Basil the Great and Peter of Sebaste have all been recognized as saints. He received a good education and taught rhetoric at one point. In 372, his brother Basil ordained him the bishop of Nyssa in Cappadocia (in present-day Turkey).
Gregory and Basil both spent much effort defending the Faith against the attacks of the Arians. He was twice deposed as leader of his See because of false accusations made by the heretics. His position as bishop was finally restored in 378.
The next year, 379, his brother Basil the Great died. As the two were extremely close, Gregory was very grieved at his loss. To honor his brother, Gregory wrote his funeral oration and then completed Basil's Hexaemeron, a series of nine sermons, delivered during Great Lent, which described and elaborated upon the Genesis account of the world's creation in six days (Hexaemeron means "six days"). The following year, Gregory's sister Macrina also died, and Gregory wrote a hagiography detailing her life.
About this time Gregory attended the Council of Antioch, a local synod, in which he zealously defended Orthodoxy. The council was called to rebut a heresy which denied the perpetual virginity of the Theotokos, on one hand, and other the other hand forbid worship of her as God or part of the Godhead. Gregory was simultaneously continuing to fight Arianism. Next, he attended the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople, which added the final section concerning the Holy Spirit to the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.
He wrote 12 Books Against Eunomius
He also wrote important dogmatic works: 12 Books against Eunomius, who had replied to Basil’s earlier attack after Basil was dead and could no longer reply himself. His Great Catechism is tremendously important, as are his various clarifications on Trinitarian doctrine, e.g. To Ablabius, That there are not Three Gods. His Life of St, Macrina served as a sort of ascetical handbook in biographical form, much like Athanasius’ Life of Anthony. His eschatological views are expounded in the form of a platonic dialogue at Macrina’s deathbed, under the title On the Soul and Resurrection.
For the rest of his life, Gregory continued to attend church councils, discuss doctrinal matters, and combat various heresies. He reached old age and finally reposed in the Lord near the end of the fourth century.
We know nothing of St Gregory of Nyssa after 394, and that is why he is presumed to have died somewhere around this time.
St. Miltiades (311-14)
Pope Saint Miltiades, also called Melchiades in Greek), was pope from 2 July 311 to 10 January 314. He appears to have been a Berber African by birth, but of his personal history nothing is known.
His elections marked the end of a period sede vacante lasting from the death of Pope Eusebius on 17 August 310 or, 309, soon after the Emperor Maxentius had exiled Eusebius to Sicily.
During his pontificate, in October 312, Constantine defeated Maxentius and assumed control over Rome. Constantine presented the pope with the Lateran Palace which became the papal residence and seat of Christian governance. Early in 313, Constantine and fellow Emperor Licinius reached an agreement at Milan that they would grant freedom of religion to the Christians and other religions and restore church property.
In the same year 313, Miltiades presided over the Lateran Synod in Rome, which acquitted Caecilian of Carthage and condemned Donatus as a schismatic (see Donatism). He was then invited to the Council of Arles but died before it was held.
The Liber Pontificalis, compiled from the fifth century onwards, attributed the introduction of several later customs to Miltiades, including not fasting on Thursdays or Sundays, although subsequent scholarship now believes the customs probably existed before Miltiades.
In the thirteenth century, the feast of Saint Melchiades (as he was then called) was included, with the mistaken qualification of "martyr", in the Roman Calendar for celebration on 10 December. In 1969 it was removed from that calendar of obligatory liturgical celebrations, and his feast was moved to the day of his death, 10 January, with his name given in the form "Miltiades" and without the indication "martyr".
St. Sylvester I (314-35)
Sylvester was pope from January 31, 314 to December 31, 335, succeeding Pope Miltiades. He filled the See of Rome at a very important era in the history of the Catholic Church, but very little is known of him.
The accounts of the papacy of Pope Sylvester I preserved in the Liber Pontificalis (7th or 8th century) are little else than a record of the gifts said to have been conferred on the Church by Emperor Constantine I, but it does say that he was the son of a Roman named Rufinus.
During his pontificate were built the great churches founded at Rome by Constantine, e.g. the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, St. Peter's Basilica, and several cemeterial churches over the graves of martyrs.
Saint Sylvester did not himself attend the First Council of Nicaea in 325, but he was represented by two legates, Vitus and Vincentius, and he approved the council's decision.
At an early stage copious legend supplemented his scanty history, bringing him into close relationship with the first Christian emperor. These legends were introduced especially into the "Vita beati Sylvestri", which appeared in the East and has been preserved in Greek and Syriac; and in Latin in the "Constitutum Sylvestri" - an apocryphal account of an alleged Roman council which belongs to the Symmachian forgeries and appeared between 501 and 508. They also appear in the "Donation of Constantine".
He has been stated by certain Church authorities[clarification needed] to have baptized Constantine, but this is most likely a myth.
St. Marcus (336)
Pope Saint Mark or Marcus was Pope from January 18, 336 to October 7, 336.
He is said to have been a Roman, but little is known of his early life. He was consecrated on January 18, 336, and died October 7 that same year.
The Liber Pontificalis says that he was a Roman, and that his father's name was Priscus. Some evidence suggests that the early lists of bishops and martyrs known as the Depositio episcoporum and Depositio martyrum were begun during his pontificate. Mark also issued a constitution confirming the power of the bishop of Ostia to consecrate newly elected popes. Mark is credited with the foundation of the basilica of San Marco in Rome and the Juxta Pallacinis basilica just outside the city.
Mark died of natural causes and was buried in the catacomb of Balbina, where he had built the cemetery church. His feast day is on October 7.
St. Julius I (337-52)
Pope Saint Julius I, was pope from February 6, 337 to April 12, 352.
He was a native of Rome and was chosen as successor of Mark after the Roman seat had been vacant for four months. He is chiefly known by the part he took in the Arian controversy. After the followers of Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was now the Patriarch of Constantinople, had renewed their deposition of Athanasius as bishop of Alexandria, at a synod held in Antioch in 341, they resolved to send delegates to Constans, Emperor of the West, and also to Julius, setting forth the grounds on which they had proceeded. Julius, after expressing an opinion favourable to Athanasius, adroitly invited both parties to lay the case before a synod to be presided over by himself. This proposal, however, the Arian Eastern bishops declined to accept.
On this second banishment from Alexandria, Athanasius came to Rome, and was recognised as a regular bishop by the synod presided over by Julius in 342. Julius sent a letter to the Eastern bishops that is an early instance of the claims of primacy for the bishop of Rome. Even if Athanasius and his companions were somewhat to blame, the letter runs, the Alexandrian Church should first have written to the pope. "Can you be ignorant," writes Julius, "that this is the custom, that we should be written to first, so that from here what is just may be defined" (Epistle of Julius to Antioch, c. xxii).
It was through the influence of Julius that, at a later date, the council of Sardica in Illyria was held, which was attended only by seventy-six Eastern bishops, who speedily withdrew to Philippopolis and deposed Julius at the council of Philippopolis, along with Athanasius and others. The three hundred Western bishops who remained, confirmed the previous decisions of the Roman synod; and by its 3rd, 4th, and 5th decrees relating to the rights of revision claimed by Julius, the council of Sardica perceptibly helped forward the pretensions of the Bishop of Rome. Julius died on April 12, 352 and was succeeded by Liberius.
Julius is considered a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, with his feast day on April 12.
St Liberius (352-66)
Pope Saint Liberius, pope from May 17, 352 to September 24, 366, was consecrated according to the Catalogus Liberianus on May 22, as the successor of Pope Julius I. He is not mentioned as a saint in the Roman Martyrology. His first recorded act was, after a synod had been held at Rome, to write to Emperor Constantius II, then in quarters at Arles (353-354), asking that a council might be called at Aquileia with reference to the affairs of Athanasius of Alexandria; but his messenger Vincentius of Capua was compelled by the emperor at a conciliabulum held in Arles, to subscribe against his will a condemnation of the orthodox patriarch of Alexandria.In 355 Liberius was one of t
he few who, along with Eusebius of Vercelli, Dionysius of Milan, and Lucifer of Cagliari, refused to sign the condemnation of Athanasius, which had anew been imposed at Milan by imperial command upon all the Western bishops; the consequence was his relegation to Beroea in Thrace; Antipope Felix II being consecrated his successor by three catascopi haud episcopi (spies, in no way [are they] bishops), as Athanasius called them.
At the end of an exile of more than two years, the emperor recalled him; but, as the Roman See was officially occupied by Antipope Felix, a year passed before Liberius was sent to Rome. It was the emperor's intention that Liberius should govern the Church jointly with Felix, but on the arrival of Liberius, Felix was expelled by the Roman people. Neither Liberius nor Felix took part in the Council of Rimini (359).
After the death of the emperor Constantius in 361, Liberius annulled the decrees of that assembly, but, with the concurrence of bishops Athanasius and Hilarius, retained the bishops who had signed and then withdrew their adherence. In 366 Liberius gave a favourable reception to a deputation of the Eastern episcopate, and admitted into his communion the more moderate of the old Arian party. He died on September 24, 366.
St. Damasus I (366-83)
Pope Damasus I was Pope from 366 to 384.
He was born around 305, probably near the city of Idanha-a-Velha (in Lusitania, Hispania), in what is present-day Portugal, or near the city of Castelo Branco (also in Lusitania, now Central Portugal), then part of the Western Roman Empire. His life coincided with the rise of Constantine I and the reunion and redivision of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires as well as what is sometimes known as the Constantinian shift, associated with the widespread legitimization of Christianity and the later adoption of Christianity as the religion of the Roman state.
Damasus is known to have been raised in the service of the Basilica of San Lorenzo fuori le Mura in Rome, and following the death of Pope Liberius, he succeeded to the Papacy amidst factional violence. A group of Damasus' supporters, previously loyal to the Antipope Felix II, attacked and killed rivals loyal to Liberius' deacon Ursinus, in a riot that required the intervention of Emperor Valentinian I to quell.
Damasus faced accusations of murder and adultery (despite having not been married) in his early years as pope. The neutrality of these claims have come into question with some suggesting that the accusations were motivated by the schismatic conflict with the supporters of Arianism. His personal problems were contrasted with his religious accomplishments, which included restoring Saint Lawrence outside the Walls, appointing Jerome as his personal secretary and encouraging his Vulgate translation of the bible, and presiding over the Council of Rome in 382, which set down the canon of scripture. He also did much to encourage the veneration of the martyrs.
St. Siricius (384-99)
Pope Saint Siricius, Bishop of Rome from December 384 (the date in December, 15 or 22 or 29, is uncertain) until his death on 26 November 399, was successor to Damasus I and was himself succeeded by Anastasius I.
Siricius was elected Bishop of Rome unanimously, despite attempts by the Antipope Ursinus' to promote himself. He was an active Pope, involved in the administration of the Church, and the handling of various factions and viewpoints within it. He was the first pope to issue decretals, the first of which was the Directa Decretal sent to Himerius of Tarragona. He was the author of two decrees concerning clerical celibacy.
When the Spanish bishop and ascetic Priscillian, accused by his fellow bishops of heresy, was executed by the emperor Magnus Maximus under the charge of magic, Siricus - along with Ambrose of Milan and Martin of Tours - protested against this verdict.
His feast day is 26 November.
Although the Website Religion Facts says that Pope Siricius was the first Bishop of Rome to style himself Pope, competing sources say that the title of Pope was from the early third century used for any bishop in the West. It seems that in the East it was used only for the Bishop of Alexandria, but the imperial chancery of Constantinople normally reserved it for the Bishop of Rome. From the sixth century it began to be confined in the West to the Bishop of Rome, a practice that was firmly in place by the eleventh century.
Siricius, again, is one of the Popes presented in various sources as having been the first to bear the title Pontifex Maximus. Others that are said to have been the first to bear the title are Pope Callistus I, Pope Damasus I, Pope Leo I, Pope Gregory I. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church says instead that it was in the fifteenth century (when the Renaissance stirred up new interest in ancient Rome) that "Pontifex Maximus" became a regular title of honour for Popes.
St. Anastasius I (399-401)
Pope Saint Anastasius I was pope from November 27, 399 to 401.
Although the pontificate of St. Anastasius was brief, he had time to show that watchful care for the preservation of pure doctrine which distinguishes the holders of the Roman See. A Roman, the son of Maximus, Anastasius was elected to succeed Siricius in 399.
One of his first problems was an appeal which had been made to Pope Siricius. At this time (and many other times too) the writings of Origen enjoyed a great vogue. This brilliant but erratic third-century writer exercised a charm over men's minds which, in view of his sometimes less than orthodox opinions, could be dangerous. St. Jerome himself, grim watchdog of orthodoxy that he was, had issued an expurgated edition of Origen's Homilies. But heretics were now appealing to the authority of Origen and it was imprudent of St. Jerome's old friend Rufinus to choose this moment for a translation of Origen's philosophical study, Peri Archon. He explained, however, that since a greater name had already translated Origen's Homilies he felt justified. Jerome was furious. Not at all mollified by the reference to one greater, he attacked his old friend with bitterness. Then Rufinus became angry and told his reading public quite bluntly that Jerome was a defamer. The East rang with the shock of this battle of words, and an appeal was made to the Pope. Siricius, probably in view of the personalities involved, had been slow to act, but now St. Anastasius felt that the time had come to speak out. He condemned Origen and deprecated the translation of Rufinus. Shortly after the Pope spoke, the imperial government banned the works of Origen.
St. Anastasius also wrote to the bishops of Africa urging them to keep up the good fight against the Donatist heretics. But again, like so many popes, he was merciful to repentant heretics.
Evidently there was some trouble about unauthorized priests drifting in to Rome, for Anastasius ordered that no priest from across the sea should be received unless he had a letter signed by five bishops. He also decreed that priests should stand with heads bowed while the gospel was being read. He built a basilica called the Crescentian.
St. Anastasius was a friend of the great Fathers of the Church, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Paulinus. St. Paulinus had a pleasant visit with the Pope. St. Anastasius died in December 401 with the empire on the brink of disaster. St. Jerome says that he was a man of apostolic zeal and great poverty, and that Rome did not deserve to possess him long lest the world's head be cut off while ruled by such a bishop. His feast is kept on December 16.
- Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-c.211 AD)
- Edict of Milan
- Constantine I
- Aksumite Empire
- ST ATHANASIUS, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA, 296-373 A.D.
- Council of Rimini
- Julian the Apostate
- St. Nerses I
- A Brief Introduction to the History of Coptic Monasticism
- Christ in the Old Testament and the 1st and 2nd Ecumenical Councils. © John S. Romanides
- St. Gregory of Nyssa (The Father of Fathers)